Fear of concussions shouldn’t deter women from playing soccer

Different researches have shown that women are twice as likely to get concussions from sports-related head injuries as compared to men. Many researchers, as well as people, particularly misogynists, have got an opportunity to take these researches as an excuse to propagate discouragement of sports amongst women — mainly games like soccer that are prone to collision and contact.

As a former soccer player myself and a female who has suffered from concussions for around ten years now, I can say that my love for sports hasn’t faded a bit. I will still encourage women to go out and play and enjoy the beautiful game that is all about team coordination and leadership. Through a series of blogs, I will be getting more into detail about concussions, particularly female sufferers, and share my experiences with the concussion and how I dealt with it. I will share my knowledge and how we can positively deal with concussions and overcome them through various methods — be it music, be it positivity, be it support from family, be it different healing modalities, what terminologically we would say brain rewiring, neuroplasticity, brain biohacking etc. Before we get into the jargon, which I will get into later in the series, it’s essential we remove negativity around ‘women and soccer’ and look at it positively. This series is going to be about positivity.

There’s no sport that’s safe, and all physical games have their share of body blows that could lead to permanent body impairment. Men, even if at half the rate of women, too are susceptible to get concussions. But there are negligible people out there who are discouraging men from playing soccer as compared to the vehement campaign against women playing the game. They abuse the ‘definition of sex’ and ‘definition of gender’ to conclude that women are wired differently, both in the brain as well as the rest of the body. They find the women hormones as an excuse to discourage them from playing. There are no two doubts about being wired differently. But that does not call for a blanket ban on women from playing soccer.

When it comes to tests for the researches, they as such could be susceptible to ‘test bias’. Irrespective of the test bias, there are many positive aspects of these researches. They help spread awareness. They open up debates. Instead of using these researches as hooks to spread negativity, they can be used to bring about positive changes. Instead of discouraging women from playing the game, the need is to evolve and ‘bend and mend’ the rules, and if injuries do occur, take things positively.

Bending the rules

Fortunately, the medical world and people know a lot more about concussions today what we knew 10–15 years ago. That information should not be used to press negativity around the game. Knowledge should come as an eye-opener and get safety measures in place. Negative press around concussions has led to a steady decline in children opting for soccer. Particularly amongst girls. Human beings evolve. Sports evolve, and so do rules. Baseball, for example, has come a long way since the nineteenth century when it was played just with a bat and ball. There are safety-equipments now, which are mandatory for all players.

The rules of ‘definition of sex’ and ‘definition of gender’ are not exclusive to soccer and apply to all workplaces. And all workplaces have a different set of rules for both men and women. So what’s stopping the game from having a different set of rules and safety guidelines for women? How much body-to-body contact can be allowed? What degree of tackling is permissible? At what age and how much heading can be allowed in a game? These are some starting points, and it’s for the soccer-keepers, I would say, that they should look into them seriously before the hate campaign takes its toll on the love for the game.

Keeping up the hope

While concussion and mental illness are co-related, as the former could lead to the latter, they aren’t the same. Concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function. Symptoms may include constant headaches leading to migraines, trouble with thinking, memory or concentration, constant ringing noise in the ear, nausea, sleep disturbances, blurry vision, or mood changes. The confusion around what’s happening to you could lead to depression, anxiety and aloofness. Primarily, very much like mental-disorder, concussions also come with a stigma. Many sportspersons, particularly women, hide or ignore concussions for fear of making them sound or look weak. The need, primarily, is to clear the misconceptions in the public mindset around concussion.

If you are suffering from concussions, for you, the primary rule is to accept it, stay positive and seek medical help. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I have personally gone through it. It’s cyclic. When you suffer, people around you — your parents, your siblings suffer. That makes you feel more terrible. That’s why public awareness and accepting concussion have to go together.

Through this blog, I will not only be talking about concussions but mental health in general too. Besides this blog, we have a series of programs lined up for people who are suffering from concussions silently. We have lined up a helpline where you can call 24X7 and discuss your problem and seek guidance on how to overcome concussions and how to stay positive and where can you find medical help. We also have a series of 21-day ‘Life Coaching’ program, lined up, for people like the former me, who even don’t know where to start and have no idea how they can get better. They are stuck in their houses, with their and their families’ lives destroyed. I will be sharing the details of these over the series.

A concussion is a very treatable condition. As with any medical condition, early intervention in concussion too reduces symptoms and accelerates the course of recovery. It just needs a structured, multidisciplinary plan of care. The fear of concussion should not deter any woman from playing soccer. Stay positive. Keep playing. Play safe. Till we meet next time.