Head injuries and their ramifications are certainly not a new issue. This will undoubtedly resurface as new information emerges and we find better ways of handling the situation. Much of the past and present information has focused on prevention. In its own right, prevention is important. Remaking helmets that do a better job of protecting players from impact, as well as more recent developments in materials that help absorb shock are excellent steps in prevention. Rules, regulations and techniques that address helmet-to-helmet impacts, further emphasize prevention.
Other than the league prolonging a player’s return to the game post-concussion and MRIs, can anything further could be done post-injury? I cannot speak as an expert, but as a person who had a vested interest in head injuries throughout my academic career. In addition to concussions, more information is targeting sub-threshold types of injuries. Injuries in which there can be damage, but they never reach the threshold of being diagnosed as a concussion. This brings awareness to the simple fact that the scope of head injuries in football is much broader than originally considered. Injuries are inevitable, especially in this sport, whether or not they are diagnosed.
At the moment, I have a mental image of players that have been sidelined due to some injury, whether it’s a leg, foot or shoulder. If this is not a career-ending injury, part of the player’s road to recovery is seeing a physical therapist and eventually, participating in physical activities such as weight and flexibility training. Hopefully, the player will be back to normal, or without a significant impact to their performance. Where is the equivalent to this rehabilitative aspect, when discussing head injuries?
Something as simple as apps that can be downloaded onto mobile devices and attempt to “exercise” various regions of the brain could potentially mitigate some long-term ramifications of these injuries. It’s not an issue to tackle many years down the line after retirement, this is an issue that should be addressed when intervention is most valuable and effective- promptly after injury. This can be taken a step farther, if we consider the possibility of head injuries without a diagnosis. Perhaps, cognitive training should be incorporated into sports, just like any other form of training.
If 100 years later, we realize that this approach did nothing, we can still say that it didn’t hurt either. I’m a strong proponent of providing those with injuries a variety of challenges that may help to facilitate recovery, no matter the manifestation of injuries. Spending time in the weight room after a head injury and keeping in shape until it’s time for the next game is fine. But, requiring injured players to engage in some mental “strength training” could be even better.