Meet Sandra Chapman, self-described football nut and a former Texas cheerleader, who may not be a doctor, but plays a concussion expert at conventions, evidently.
“The myth is that brain damage is permanent,” she said.
Early recognition of a concussion is crucial, she said, and then athletes must be given plenty of time to get better and avoid the risk of further concussion. Chapman suggested that coaches treat players with concussions not much differently than they would one with a broken ankle or torn ACL by keeping them sidelined. If so, the long-term problems associated with concussions can be avoided, she said.
“In the majority of cases, athletes fully recover after a concussion, given proper care,” Chapman said. “If you were to read the front pages, you would not believe this is true. But it is.”
Chapman didn’t downplay the risk of head injuries from playing football and said that she initially didn’t want her own son to play the game. But the benefits of football – including improved self-esteem, the lessons of teamwork and exercise – can’t be overlooked, she argued. Rather than a health risk, she called football “health-enhancing.”
“Most [concussions] come from car accidents, and we’re not getting rid of our cars, as you know,” she said.
She even has her own word.
On the other hand, it was a little curious to hear a neuroscientist tout health benefits of football such as making teenagers less likely to engage in other risky behaviors, less likely to become addicted to video games and encourage better sleep. She even talked about “brainomics” – her own word – which she defined as “the high economic cost if we don’t encourage youth to play team sports.”
Maybe one day there’ll be a Nobel Prize for brainomics. In the meantime, please be careful when you drive.