Over the years I have subjected my body to numerous injuries and damage. Some, while painful, were actually funny on how I received the injury.
When my daughter was three or four we were playing a game of chase in a field when I stuck my right foot into a gopher hole and shattered the end of the first metatarsal bone (that is the bone in the foot right after the big toe). The doctors said there really was nothing they could do other than stick my foot in basically a wooden shoe and let it heal. It still gives me problems 20+ years later with a calcium build up in the area.
I have broken my nose several times, mostly due to fights, but once while playing with my kids at a park. They were around eight and five and all of us were running up and down slides when I decided to run up a “kiddie” slide. As I yelled for my kids to “watch me” I run up the slide towards the ladder. The problem was that it was a grey, overcast day in December, and I did not see the two-inch wide steel bar that ran across the top of the slide. I hit that thing at full speed, catching it right on the bridge of the nose. I hit it hard enough were it knocked me backwards off the slide and on to the ground. My sweet little daughter came up to me as I laid in the sand, stood over me and said, “Papa, you’re bleeding.” All I could think was, “No sh*t, Sherlock” but kept from saying anything.
As blood poured out of my nose, and from the gash across the bridge of my nose where my glasses impacted, I decided it was time to take the kids home and visit the hospital. I had hit in such a way so as to crack the nasal bones and break the cartilage loose. I guess that kids can be dangerous to their parents health.
When I was in my twenties I had to have knee surgery on my left knee for some torn ligaments and damaged cartilage. In my forties I was with one of my exes at the Children’s Museum, and was holding her foster son who was about 8 months old. He and I were sitting on a bench when she shouted that everyone was getting ready to move to a new section of the Museum. I got up and turned quickly, and proceeded to slam my right knee into the rounded arm rest of the bench. I knocked the kneecap sideways and tore the medial collateral ligament (MCL). It was what they call a grade two tear/sprain and my ortho stuck me in a brace for eight weeks and loaded me up on NSAIDs and pain killers. Again, a child was involved in an injury, and this time at a place that was supposed to be child proof. Only problem was that it was not idiot proof.
Along the path of life I have had my back crushed while trying to subdue a prisoner, leaving me with five herniated disks in the thoracic spine and two in the lumbar region. I have torn the latissimus dorsi (lat) muscle on the right side of my back. I have had my right shoulder injured so many times that I ended up having to have surgery a couple of years ago to shave off a part of the bone so I could regain most of my range of motion. I dislocated the clavicle from the sternum in a motorcycle accident. I’ve had cracked ribs, sprained ankles and broke my wrist twice in three months.
With all the injuries I have had over the years, the ones that most concern me are the concussions. I received my first when I was about seven or eight years old. Actually, it was several concussions over a year-long period, and may have been the cause of the pseudo brain tumor that I had as a child. During my life time I have had approximately a dozen concussions, some very mild and some severe enough to land me in rehab for months. My last concussion was in 2008 when I was involved in an auto accident, and slammed my head into the car door’s side post.
I bring up the concussions because someone very close to me was recently involved in an auto accident, and received a concussion. This is their sixth in perhaps a dozen years.
To quote from the Mayo Clinic’s website:
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury [TBI] that alters the way your brain functions. Effects are usually temporary, but can include problems with headache, concentration, memory, judgment, balance and coordination.
Although concussions usually are caused by a blow to the head, they can also occur when the head and upper body are violently shaken. These injuries can cause a loss of consciousness, but most concussions do not. Because of this, some people have concussions and don’t realize it.
Concussions are common, particularly if you play a contact sport, such as football. But every concussion injures your brain to some extent. This injury needs time and rest to heal properly. Luckily, most concussive traumatic brain injuries are mild, and people usually recover fully.
There has been research into the long-term effects of repeated concussions. According to an article in the LA Times, “The damages . . . were similar to those observed in boxers who have taken severe beatings to the head, [Dr. Ann C. McKee of Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy] said. Although they are also similar to the changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease, she added, ‘they represent a distinct disease with a distinct cause, namely repetitive head trauma.”‘
Most people think of football or hockey players as being the ones most susceptible to concussions, and I agree that these athletes do have a higher chance of suffering from TBI than the average person. However, if your job places you in a position were you can be injured and suffer a blow to the head or are around a concussive force, say a bomb or IED, the risk of a TBI increases dramatically. People who are first responders (police and firefighters) know that there is always the possibility that they will take a blow to the head, either due to a fight or something falling on them. Military personnel are especially at risk due to the potential for exposure to IEDs or other explosions that may occur around them.
Unfortunately, the very people who maybe at the greatest risk for repeated TBI are also the ones that are the most likely to deny that there is any problem. I blame much of that denial on that fact that those who chose high risk professions: military, police, firefighter, football or hockey player, boxer, are the type of people who will simply shake off an injury and keep going. The old adage of “rub dirt in it” comes to mind. It’s not that people who chose these professions are stupid, many are very intelligent, selfless individuals who want to make a difference in the world or who have an innate athleticism that allows them to excel in sports. It is, in my opinion, that they believe that by their sheer will they can overcome any injury or problem. And this is something I speak of from personal experience.
If you take a blow to the head, take it seriously and get medical attention. If you are the parent of a child that excels in sports learn to recognize the symptoms of a TBI. I would tell parents not to restrict their sons or daughters from playing football or hockey, but be aware of the risks. The spirit of competition is strong in humans. It is what drives us to scale high mountains, swim oceans, land men on the moon. But, as with all things in life, there are risks.
Are the dozen concussions that I have had over the years the reason I have as many neurological problems as I have today? I don’t know. I do know that if I had known about the potential for long-term damage caused by repeated head injuries I would have been more cautious through out my life. But, then again, probably not.