Create Safe Concussion Symptom Environment, de Lench Tells National Concussion Conference
The following are remarks by MomsTEAM Institute Executive Director Brooke de Lench to a national sports concussion conference in Marina Del Ray, California in 2008:
Thank you for that kind introduction. It is indeed an honor to have been asked to participate in this conference and to speak to an audience filled with a veritable who’s who in the world of concussions in sports. Since April is Youth Sports Safety Month this is a wonderful time to be talking about how to prevent and manage the concussions that our children are suffering in increasing numbers.
I view the subject of concussions from a perspective different from most of you: as a parent and mother, certainly, but also as the Editor-in-Chief and founder of an online publication that values teamwork among all the stakeholders with an interest in youth sports so highly that it is a part of our very name, and has made since our inception in 2000, youth sports safety an important part of our mission.
Over the next half hour I will offer some suggestions on how each of us — whether we be parent, coach, official, athletic trainer, clinician, current or former professional athlete, sports safety equipment manufacturer, whether we are here representing a local youth sports program, the national governing body of a sport, or a professional sports league, can work together with parents as a team to protect our country’s most precious human resource — our children — against catastrophic injury or death from sudden impact syndrome or the serious, life-altering consequences of multiple concussions.
As a mother of triplet sons, I have always taken a keen interest in their safety. I suspect that all parents would say, if asked, that they put their kids’ safety first — whether it is playing organized sports, at home, or riding their bike in the neighborhood. Some parents — particularly mothers, who have been the guardians of children at play since the dawn of day — not only talk that talk, but walk the walk, and are veryprotective.
I admit that, when it came to my sons’ safety — and the safety of their teammates, I fell — and still fall — at that end of the spectrum, because I feel that, while life always involves some degree of risk, childhood should be a time when it is our responsibility as parents to minimize those risks and make it one of our highest priorities.
I remember when my son, Spencer, was playing junior varsity football. My mother’s intuition told me that it wasn’t a good idea. He was one of those gifted kids who played 100% on defense and 100% of offense. I was worried about what all those hits to the head and blows to the chest were doing to his brain, and, even though he never suffered a hit that actually knocked him out, I was aware of his two previous concussions¡ªone while snowboarding. I suspected something was dangerously wrong when, in his last game his sophomore year in 1999, I saw him wandering around on defense, seemingly in a daze, unable to remember where he was supposed to play.
That week, I took him to see Cheryl Weinstein a neuropsychologist at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. After a battery of neuropsychological tests, Dr. Weinstein slowly told me that Spencer risked permanent brain damage if he continued playing lacrosse and football. I agonized over the decision in making sure that he did not return to the playing field.