Johna Register-Mihalik, Ph. D. Johna Register-Mihalik, Ph. D.   IN: What's New, Top Stories, Identification & Diagnosis   Tagged: ,  
  • Johna Register-Mihalik, Ph. D.

    Author: Johna Register-Mihalik is an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Research Scientist at the Matthew Gfeller Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and the Injury Prevention Research Center at UNC-CH.

  • Johna Register-Mihalik, Ph. D.

Teach Athletes That Coming Out of Game Because Of Concussion Symptoms A Sign of Strength Not Weakness

The culture of sport and issues related to concussion are complex and multifaceted. As a result, addressing these complexities requires an approach that involves stakeholders at all levels of society, from the athletes themselves all the way to legislators and the media. The more of these levels and individuals we can involve, the more likely we are to see true change that creates as positive and safe environment for sport participation as possible.

As coaches and parents, we are the adults, we are those with experience, and we are the ones who our children look up to when learning to make choices and how to respond to adversity. There is an enormous body of work that illustrates the strong influence we have on our children as both parents and coaches in the sporting environment. One of the key situations in which our influence becomes apparent is in response to injury, especially concussion, which sometimes is unseen or not as noticeable as an ankle sprain or broken bone.

We have an opportunity to set a positive example, to use the wonderful attributes of sport to not only teach our children the great things that sport has to offer such as teamwork, persistence, and working through hard things, but also how to take care of their bodies and their brains. Research shows that our words, body language, and messaging matter. It’s important that we set the context for what we want our children to learn and how we want them to respond.

Pressure from parents and coaches is one of the key factors that play into young athletes’ decisions on how they respond to an injury. For instance, we want our children to be persistent and to not quit because things get tough, but we also want them to know when they are injured and should not participate. We want them to know that it is a good thing to take care of yourself and your teammates and that coming out of a game or practice because of an injury is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength!

We can create a community of safety by sharing our knowledge, starting community discussions, and encouraging our teams and leagues to discuss safety on a regular basis and in a positive way (not just as a box to check). It doesn’t have to be boring and in contrast to sport, it should be a part of the sport and a fun one at that. If our children learn healthy behaviors, develop positive attitudes, and come to expect a culture of safety, they will carry this with them throughout their athletic journey. We as parents and coaches can also do the same. When it is the “norm”, people will do it!

So let’s get out there and use the latest research, free and great resources, technology, and the evidence-based messages that are available through sources like the Centers for Disease Control, SmartTeams, MomsTEAM, and other websites and sources to raise awareness, educate, and train ourselves, as well as all key stakeholders in the sporting community to create a culture of safety and health!

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