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Brain Injury Awareness

Advocating awareness of certain medical issues or diseases provides a great way to get the conversation rolling and can go a long way in potential treatments.  Over the course of the last decade, traumatic brain injuries have gone from being a relatively unknown occurrence to national headline.  In part, the increased awareness of brain injuries in America has only occurred because of the high-profile problems it has caused in sports.  Now, as doctors and researchers know more about how head injuries affect the brain, sport physicians have taken drastically careful steps to safeguard the health of the players.  Mike Richter, former goalkeeper of the NHL’s New York Rangers, suffered career ending head injuries in 2003.  Now over a decade later, he speaks about the lack of knowledge surrounding concussions and head injuries in sports, and the progress we have made since his own injury.

In 2003 during the final year of his career, an opposing player kneed Mike Richter in the head, just months after fracturing his skull by a rising slap shot.  Now, his name has become synonymous with cautionary tales around the league.  Richter was forced to retire as his mind became incredibly hazy after suffering these two devastating injuries.  Before his injuries, he bemoaned the lack of knowledge surrounding head injuries, “It’s almost embarrassing what my take on concussions was before experiencing them. I had friends and teammates and opponents and lots of people I know go through it, but it’s indescribably difficult to convey unless you’ve been through it.”

At a conference sponsored by NYU Langone Medical Center’s Concussion Center, Richter addressed hundreds of scientist and researchers, providing his own personal experiences with traumatic brain injuries.  Of course, since Richter was forced to retire, more education about head injuries has promulgated, but ahead lies more to be discovered.  Discussion pertaining to these injuries is only the beginning, which, in hopes, will lead to further attainment of knowledge.

“When I got hurt, my immediate reaction was, ‘Of course I’m fine, of course I can come back, of course I can play through it.  That’s what you know how to do, and you should know how to do, because playing through pain is a learned habit and those that learn it best perform best. But it’s not a healthy response when it comes to brain injuries. It’s a full stop — a different animal, and it has to be respected as such. And it’s starting to be. We are in a better place than we were 13 years ago when I was injured,” Richter said at the head trauma conference.   “A fundamental part of a contact sport like hockey or football is the contact that will result in, unfortunately, sometimes, brain injuries. You cannot insulate yourself from a lot of these risks. But I think a key is having an understanding of what they are and making informed decisions.”

Source: New York Times