The Scoop Winter 2016 - Page 19

The Scoop / Winter '16 19

don’t know all the answers and we don’t fully understand how that evolved.”

Ginsburg also highlighted how it’s only natural to see professional athletes suffering from concussions. NFL players can receive anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 sub-concussive blows to the head each season, and that causes people to worry why concussions are more prevalent now. Yet there is no clear answer to this vexing phenomenon.

“Is it greater awareness?” Ginsburg asked. “Is something different with how games are being played? Is it the level of aggressiveness? Does it have to do with equipment? Nutritional factors? We just don’t know.”

With Ginsburg’s response in mind, Spangenberg said that one reason concussions are more of a hot-button issue lies in how lacrosse (and other sports) has evolved in recent years.

“The sport has really evolved the last twenty years because it’s more of a contact sport than collision

one,” he said. “The game with conscious hitting is part of the past and we have to get coaches to understand that it’s not a means to the game. That will hopefully create an environment where safety is a top priority.”

While this broader framework appears ominous, Spangenberg also pointed out that lacrosse is a great sport for kids and concussions shouldn’t deter participation. MBYLL coaches are knowledgeable about concussions and The Safety Tag, which partners with the Bill Belichick Foundation, helps create a safer environment.

As long as everyone is educated about blows to the head, kids will spend more time on the field, miss less school time, and enjoy healthier lives down the road.

“It’s all about education and making sure everyone understands there needs to be a plan from a parent’s perspective, from an athlete’s perspective, and from

a coach’s pers-pective,” Spangenberg said. “In doing that we’ll get a lot closer to re-moving concu-ssions from the game or at least recognizing them immediat-ely so we can pull a player out and

let them properly heal.”

If kids do get hit in the head, it's also is important to get a proper evaluation such as the one Ginsburg’s team offers at Mass General Hospital. All factors must be considered and with a neurologist, sports medicine doctors, sports psychologists, and physical therapists all present, no stone is left unturned.

It’s important to treat the whole athlete, work through the lingering symptoms, and nip any underlying problems in the bud before they take a larger toll. Missing a game or two might be frustrating, but the long-term benefits cannot be stressed enough, especially with something as delicate as the brain.

The hope is, with all the right tools at the disposal of coaches and parents alike, concussions can slowly fade out of youth sports.

“These are family decisions,” Ginsburg said. “Some kids recover fine, and we don’t have a number where kids need to stop playing. It’s common sense based on how your body recovers, how quickly it recovers, how frequently you’re getting concussions, and understanding that they sometimes are part of the game.”

At the end of the day, however, team sports offer so much to kids. Concussions are worrisome, but better equipment and more safety precautions all bode well for the future of young athletes.

“It’s really important for us as a society to keep young people physically active,” Ginsburg said. “Whether it’s individual sports or team sports, there are valuable psychological, physical, social, and academic benefits that are so tremendous. Concussions are a problem, but they shouldn’t take away from all of that.”