I can hear the sound of the high school marching band practicing out my window. Ah, the excitement of the Fall football season and I am definitely a fan. The Michigan flag is flying proudly. From our home, you will hear the chant of “Go Blue”and prayers for a better season!
But lately, I am reminded of why I didn’t want my son to play high school soccer (he did) and why some parents are hesitant to allow their kids to play hockey, football and other sports that provide repeated opportunities for blows to the head. Often accused of being overly “mama,”I may have science behind me.
When 35-year old Wade Belak hanged himself last week, the link between head trauma and mental illness was again in the news. Belak was the former forward of the Nashville hockey team, the Predators. His death follows on the heels of New York rangers Derek Boogaard (28) who died of a drug overdose in May and Jet Rick Rypien (27) who died of suicide in August.
And I can’t forget my favorite professional football team’s loss, former defensive back of the Chicago Bears, Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 50. In his suicide note, he requested his brain be studied for evidence of a brain disease related to blows to the head.
Studies that examined the brains of professional football players and boxers find evidence of a progressive brain disease that appears similar to Lou Gehrig’s and Alzheimer’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Genetics and past injuries, along with repeated blows to the head, appear to play a role in who will develop the disease. And we certainly know there is a connection between brain trauma and depression.
So am I being an anxious mom by questioning if my kids should play sports that allow them to be hit in the head a number of times? Sadly if you asked Gil and Michelle Trenum of Prince William County Virginia, they would probably say NO. Their son hanged himself two days after receiving a concussion during his high school football game. The Trenums are donating his brain to science. My heart goes out to these parents!
What are your thoughts about supporting your kids in sports that involve repeated blows to the head? Is it just another risk that we assume in life or should we be more cautious?