Yesterday I was doing some training with my coach. We were doing some cross training and some of my favorite, running bleachers. We go to a local football field of a school in town. As we trained some coaches began coming on the field with the kids practicing football. When I finished with my training I sat down on the bleachers and watched the kids practice for a while. As I watched chills rolled down my spine. I watched the pounding and tackling which is fun for them but it is extremely disturbing to me being a person who has experienced a brain injury.
I am a mother of a seven year old boy, and his father is a huge football fan. Luckily for me my son hasn’t gotten involved in the sport yet. I have expected him to be eager to play but he hasn’t shown any interest in it at all and it’s been nice because I think the sport is dangerous especially for children. I received a brain injury in my car accident at the age of 14 and today I am 35 and I still suffer from it. I have studied traumatic brain injures for a long time and since I got involved with running I have always had an issue with how schools (at least the ones here in South Georgia) pay so much attention to the sport of football, and the cross country teams and track aren’t given the recognition they fully deserve. It’s my opinion that it is much harder to achieve a four minute mile than to tackle someone repeatedly. With all the information I know on TBI and speaking from experience only I know it is hard on a child when a brain injury occurs.
My TBI left me unable to walk and I had memory problems. When I speak with people I tell them the day I realized I had simply forgotten to walk it is hard to comprehend. I knew how to do it but I couldn’t do it. I remember like it was yesterday sitting in that wheelchair and noticing I was even in a wheelchair, I unhooked that belt and I was going to get on up. I fell to the floor on my face because I couldn’t. I recall the nurses swarming to my rescue. That vision is clear in my mind daily and it was clear in my mind as I watched those kids pounding one another.
I recently had an elite running friend of mine get mugged and suffer from a concussion. The day I received the call I went to the hospital to visit after work. The hospital staff led me to the ICU unit. As I walked up to his bed, he was all stitched and bandaged up from head to toe with a neck brace on. His mother was sitting at the bedside and I knelled down and comforted her by saying, speak to him, tell him everything is good. He had suffered a severe concussion and was in a coma state. I grabbed his hand and stood there talking running to him for an hour probably. I do this because when I came out of my coma and would talk with my mom of dreams I would have she would tell me Stephanie those were things we all said to you when you were in ICU. So my advice I always give is always talk to people in that state because our brain is more conscience subconsciously than anytime. Now that I am older I have no problem being with injured people like this because I believe that I was given that experience in my life for this purpose.
Just hearing the words brain injury is incredibly frightening. It’s effect is sometimes short term but severe TBI is lifelong and I am speaking from experience. I say this because I still have a limp on my left side and my running is extremely difficult when that left leg gets too tired, I start dragging it and it has led me to have much pain in my hip area. I have had stress fractures and muscle pulls all from this problem. I never had any seizures or migraines until maybe 12 years later when I woke up on the floor of my office I was working at then. I was 25 years old and I didn’t pay too much attention when it happened I only figured I had a little too much booze the night before. I only paid attention when someone saw me and that was one morning I was lacing up my shoes for a morning run and was chitter chatting away to my husband and the next thing I knew he had his fingers in my mouth popping my cheeks. I looked at him laughing and said what the hell are you doing? He then told me my eyes had rolled back in my head and I was grinding my jaws, and this was the beginning of a long difficult next year. That year I was in and out of hospitals having MRI’s done of my head, and being given medicine after medicine that cause so many harsh reactions. Not to mention I was not able to drive. Finally, I began to balance out and was given a drivers license back after a year.
Watching those children on that football field practice their hearts out was pleasing but it brought back all those memories to me. It’s no secret anymore that football does cause brain injuries, especially after all the NFL players being awarded money for their years of taking concussion after concussion. That money doesn’t give them their memory back or their health, in fact when I studied it a lot of player lost their career because of the TBI injuries, some even committed suicide.
My theory has always been, children who play football are recognized so much more than the children who play other sports, and a lot of those children are injured doing this sport. Football players are awarded a full scholarship over the track star or cross country runner who has ran that 4 minute mile. I do not know about a non-runner but being a brain injury survivor who runs, knows for a fact that it is much harder and takes more discipline to run a 4 minute mile than tackle someone. But ultimately I enjoy and believe in all sporting events for children but I believe more in prevention of injures and living healthy.