Ep. 103 – Avoid Head-to-Head Contact in Sports

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Good morning and welcome to Episode 103 of The Train Your Brain Podcast with Dr. Michael Trayford. Every Monday we produce a 30-minute episode. Tuesday through Sunday we produce episodes with five-minute tips. Every episode of the Train Your Brain Podcast features a tip, so you can receive pointers 365 days a year that will help enhance the performance of your brain!

Today Dr. Trayford shares tip number 103. If ever the sacrifice implied by one of Dr. Trayford’s tips was worth it, it would be this one! Avoid head-to-head contact in sports. Please don’t play physical sports that put your brain at risk. Concussions can impact you for the rest of your life. Help pioneer new ways to make old sports safe. Thanks for listening!

If you have any concerns regarding the information and applications discussed in this podcast, please consult your physician and a doctor who is experienced in functional neurology. Michael Trayford DC, DACNB is available for consultation by calling (828) 708-5274. Thanks for listening.

This tip might seem a little bit obvious, it’s common sense to try to avoid a blow to the head. Some people do have a tendency to put their heads together. In the clinic we see a lot of people dealing with concussion or post-concussion symptoms. These people might have sustained the concussion through sports, dance or other weekend warrior types of activities that can lead to a blow to the head.

Head to head contacts in sports can be avoided. It is a cultural thing. There is a certain culture of violence connected with certain sports. Yet in other sports, like soccer, the head is used in part of the game. People use their head.

We had a patient recently that had played soccer at a very high level for a long time. As a result, he suffered brain injuries from heading the ball. He has significant repercussions from that, including balance and cognition problems.

Now are people in soccer going to stop heading the ball in soccer? No. People have been using their head and all parts of their body in moves that ultimately help them win games. There is a small cultural shift that comes from the concussion controversy associated with football and particularly past NFL players.

Research being conducted in Boston and around the country seems to point to a lot of these problems could have been avoided, had it not been for all of the head to head contact these players sustained.

It’s interesting, I saw a piece the other day with the Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carrol. He developed what he called the Hawk Tackle in response to all of the problems related to concussions. He thought about what could be done to reduce blows to the head in football athletes to improve player longevity and give them healthy lives after football.

We’ve met some NFL players in their late 20’s and early 30’s that are already quite damaged from the sport and likely will have significant repercussions, without adequate intervention.

We know there is a very low incidence of blows to the head in rugby than in football. This is interesting, because while the two games are rather similar, rugby players use far less protective equipment. In a certain cultural light rugby is seen as a gentleman’s game. While the play on the field can be quite barbaric at times, yet they understand that they’re wearing less equipment and players are aware of and mindful of their body position when tackling, hitting or scrumming for the ball.

Rugby doesn’t have the same culture of violence connected to it that we see in American football. Hands down they have fewer head injuries because they make a concerted effort to avoid head to head blows.

At the same time, intentional head to head contact in NFL football has now been made illegal and comes with a significant penalty in the game. Players that use their head to strike an opponent are also subject to ejection and suspension.

Coaches like Pete Carrol being proactive about tackling style encourages a cultural shift that coaches on lower levels like Pop Warner, can use to ingrain young athletes with a safe tackling technique while they are still learning how to play the game.

If you are involved in or have kids in any of these sports, you should demand that the coaches and the league start utilizing these techniques. Many schools and athletic associations now require football coaches to take training courses and become certified in the Heads Up style of tackling.

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