I love sports. Football, hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, soccer. You name a sport, chances are, I love it. I'm counting down until the London Olympics (35 days!). As a die-hard sports fan, it's tough for me to imagine significant changes in the way sports are played, to prevent brain injuries. Can football or hockey be played without the crushing blows? As awareness over concussions has grown, society is now facing a tough question:
How can individuals and society on the whole balance the love of sports with the growing concerns over long term issues resulting from traumatic brain injuries?
In early June, Penn Medicine and Penn Athletics co-hosted an event to debate this virtues and peril of sports. Following an advance screening of the documentary Head Games - a revealing documentary about the concussion crisis in sports - a panel of experts talked about controversies in concussion diagnosis, treatment and policy.
As the film demonstrates, there's a struggle between what we know - that concussions are serious - and how that impacts our decisions to play the sports we love. There are no easy answers, even for people who have already been severely impacted by traumatic brain injuries.
While researchers are hard at work to develop tests and even treatments for concussions in athletes, the debate will continue to play out in sports. Just last week, the largest youth football organization in the United States announced that they will limit collisions and contact in practice, in an effort to reduce head injuries.
There is so much to learn, in terms of what is happening to the brain after a blow to the head, if or when someone can return safely to play, and what the long term implications may be for someone who experiences significant head injuries. If the packed house at Penn Medicine’s event was any indication, there are a lot of willing collaborators to drive the conversation forward, with a push for more research, more awareness and more discourse on the topic.