For 2 weekends in August I have worked at a soccer tournament as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC). Some may be asking what that is and that just means I was on the medical staff as a first responder tending to any injuries the players had that were acute or chronic.
Teams from all over the states in addition to a team from Mexico participated. The first weekend the players were 13-18. There were college coaches scouting for their future players. The intensity was high. Some of the student athletes were already committed to a team, while others where giving it their all to show the college coaches their skills and efforts.
The second weekend the younger’s played ranging from ages 8-13. There were parents lining the sidelines and the intensity was still very high for these little players.
As an ATC, if a player goes down and I am called onto the field the athlete is in my hands and I have the responsibility to care for the immediate needs of this athlete. I have seen fractured caller bones, sprained ankles, broken wrists, legs, bloody and broken noses, you name it, but the one injury that you never want to mess with is when it involves your brain.
I have seen many athletes have blows to the head and get knocked flat on their face, or get whiplash and hit their head on the ground, or go head to head or elbow to head and the outcome is most likely a concussion. I have come across one too many coaches, players, or parents who try get the athlete to go back into the game because it’s “important.” But let me ask you… is your life important? Would you rather sacrifice your life over playing in one more game?
Athletes are stubborn. They are some of the worst patients. I can speak for myself because I am one. I once broke my finger but refused to stop playing volleyball and now my finger is curved because I didn’t take care of it. Athletes will play through the pain if it means one more win or one more attempt at winning, but really is it worth it?
Athletes are all about the moment. But what happens after?
During the tournament I worked last weekend I was called onto the field after a player was hit in the head hard and fell to the ground. When I ran over the coach was already there. I started to make my assessment and ask the player if he was ok and how he was felling. The coach started answering for him. I continued to ask the player questions and I specifically asked him if his head hurt and when the player started to say yes, the coach nudged him and answered with “No! He is fine.” I looked the coach in the eyes and said, “The head is not something you want to mess with and if your player has any pain whatsoever in his head we need to take that seriously.” I was irritated and upset. I am on the field and it is now my job to take care of this athlete.
In that moment, the coach was more concerned with “winning” than with making sure his player was safe. This is NOT okay. This is a human’s life we are talking about. And the sad thing is, this is not the only time I have seen this happen. It happens way too frequently and people are becoming permanently damaged whether physically or emotionally because of it.
I tell you this as a precaution and to remind you that your life and anyone else’s life is important. WAY more so than any game, match, or meet.
I know how it feels. I was a competitive athlete. It is really is hard to think long term when you are in the heat of the moment. But let’s not only think of our lives, but the lives of others around us. We can still play the sport we love, but when it comes down to it, choose your life over the game.
I am here to help you!