Five days later, Abby feels fine but won't be permitted to play soccer again until she's seen by a concussion specialist (pediatricians apparently are not qualified to evaluate these types of injuries). We couldn't get an appointment with one until Tuesday. Four days after his incident, Ian is still struggling. Or so he says. He is an actor after all. But seriously, his headaches are bad and he's experiencing occasional dizziness. I don't think he's faking it because with a concussion you're not supposed to watch television or sit in front of a computer or view anything with moving pixels. In other words, he's bored out of his mind at home and would actually prefer to be at school. He will also see the concussion specialist on Tuesday. (Unfortunately, the doctor didn't go for my "two for one" suggestion.)
Concussions are scary stuff. Did you know that the brain doesn't stop growing until about age 25, making impact that much more dangerous for children and teens? Did you know that for some reason concussions are worse for girls than they are for boys? Just a couple months ago an enlightening and disturbing piece appeared on Huffington Post. In "Why My Wife and I Pulled Our Daughter Out of Soccer" the author shares research findings which report that "girls' soccer is second only to football in terms of the number of concussions in youth and high school sports." While most soccer concussions are the result of collisions between players, or falls in which a player's head strikes the ground, what is of even greater concern is the effect of the repetitive sub-concussive hits the brain absorbs during games and practices as a result of heading.
Habitually heading soccer balls may have similar effects on the brain as the repetitive sub-concussive hits that offensive and defensive linemen receive banging heads along the line of scrimmage in football.According to a UNC brain researcher, "Long-term (brain) damage may have less to do with the number of diagnosed concussions and perhaps more to do with the number of sub-concussive impacts to the head." The post goes on to cite other research findings and none of them paint a pretty picture. Like I said, this is scary stuff.
I confess to having trouble with the idea of Abby never playing soccer again, but I also can't imagine my incredibly bright, confident and industrious daughter not having her brain intact for the long life that's ahead of her. I can't imagine that thinking, solving and remembering could become a challenge because she played soccer throughout her formative years. While I realize that one header is not (God-willing) going to leave Abby brain damaged, I do question whether it makes sense to allow her to continue to play, even if we forbid her from heading. While I don't have the same concerns about Ian's time in the theater, I am worried about his current injury and any long-term effects it might have. When something happens to your children that could affect them for life, you quickly realize how precious their lives are and how much you love them just as they are now.
I know I'm generally not the picture image of parental love and concern, but my words today are heartfelt and serious. I'm sure if the kids were to read this, however, they'd have their doubts. I submit as evidence a conversation I had with Abby on Monday night:
Me: I think I have a "sympathy headache" for you and Ian.
Abby: No, you don't. You're not sympathetic.
Me: [A look of shock and disbelief]
Abby: When we were little you told us that you weren't sympathetic and that "if you're not bleeding, you're fine."
Damn that kid and her long-term memory.
As Ian and Abby have grown, I've learned that the cuts, scrapes and bruises of their childhood are not, in fact, the injuries most deserving of my concern. It's the hurts they suffer on the inside -- emotionally, mentally and physically -- that demand my full attention.