Finding a Balance: Sports and Safety

Yes, some sports could be safer — and should be — but not participating in sports at all is like being a boat that never sets sail.

Can we make sports safe enough to kids that really makes it a positive effect, or is it going to be something that is so unbelievably dangerous, like tobacco, that we would like to just outlaw it? In some countries, boxing is outlawed--just completely outlawed. My original training is in psychology, and my wife's a cardiologist. There are wonderful things about exercise and rock climbing and running and being competitive. Those things create such great health--both mental and physical health-- for our society. We don't want to stop that. They all come with risks. The greatest--I haven't seen the most recent data in terms of epidemiology in terms of head injuries, but when Jess Kraus and some other people that were doing these types of studies--the greatest chance of you having a head injury was not boxing. It was equestrian riding. And I think we can make it safer--of course we can make it safer. We can make hockey safer. Instead of putting a helmet for age 7 on all 7-year-old kids, we should have helmets that fit, that actually do what they're supposed to do. We could actually implement the types of things that we've done for these 14 states in terms of protecting these young people when they get hurt. It's not everybody that gets hurt--just a percentage of them that get hurt. Is it ever going to be completely safe? No. Nothing in life is completely safe. Everything is a risk, but if you don't-- you're born into this world with the chance to be able to make something of yourself and make a difference. And if we keep this--if you use the analogy that people use often: if you just take this ship and leave it in the harbor and don't let it go out in the sea, you're not going to allow this individual to grow and make a big difference. And sports--those activities are a fundamental component of being a human being and enhancing their spirit and enhancing their collegiality with one another and learning how to work with one another.
Posted on BrainLine October 24, 2011.

Produced by Noel Gunther, Ashley Gilleland, and Brain King, BrainLine.

About the author: David Hovda, PhD

David Hovda, PhD is the director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. He is past president of the National Neurotrauma Society and past president of the International Neurotrauma Society.  He has served as chair of study sections for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke.

David Hovda