March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Brain injuries can be hard to diagnose, treat, and recover from, often leading the affected person to feel isolated and depressed. This year’s theme, the Change Your Mind campaign, provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.
As part of Athlete Intelligence's commitment to traumatic brain injury awareness, we will using our platform to interview athletes, advocates, coaches and health care professionals throughout the sports industry to share their experiences with brain injuries.
Today, we're interviewing Jared Mayes, lacrosse coach at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania.
Tell us about your experiences in lacrosse; how long have you been playing?
I played in middle school, high school, and college, starting in 1988. I also have played in local men's leagues off and on since 2005. I started coaching while I was still in high school, and have been coaching in PA since 2003, youth, high school and Division III college.
What excites you about the sport?
Lacrosse has a lot to love: individual match-ups, team offense and defense, fast paced back-and-forth action. I also enjoy teaching new players how to take their own athletic strengths and backgrounds and apply them to lacrosse.
As a coach, how concerned are you about your athletes receiving sports-related injuries?
Obviously we try to minimize injuries. We train physically to prepare players' bodies to prevent injuries. I want our players to participate as much as possible, but at the same time while they are recovering from any type of injury to take as much time as they need...recover once and not come back 75% and get re-injured.
Lacrosse allows athletes to play several different positions. What position do you find receiving the most injuries?
Certain positions are more susceptible to some types of injuries than others. Goalies getting hit with shots develop minor but lingering injuries, where field players are more likely to get a specific acute injury. Most common injuries I've encountered are with offensive players to the hand, wrist, or thumb from stick checks.
Have you or anyone close to you ever had a concussion or other sports-related head injury?
I haven't had a concussion, but many of my players have. It seems like at least one every season.
What is your typical protocol handling a concussion? Does you have a standard 'Return to Play Protocol'?
Archbishop Wood High School has a protocol in place, led by our Athletic Trainer who works with a team from the school administration, health services, the player's parents, and the player's physician. When everyone agrees that the player is ready to return then I allow them to participate. All players are screened and measured for baseline cognition before the season, and are re-measured after a head injury.
What are some of the ways you address the topic of sports safety, especially concussion prevention and awareness, with the athletes you play with?
I try to make sure that everyone is properly equipped. I teach players how to contact properly, and to be alert when they are on the field. We also do a lot of agility drills which I feel help prevent or limit knee and ankle injuries.
Do you find that concussions and sports-related brain injuries are misunderstood? What do you you think Lacrosse could be doing more of to prevent sports-related brain injuries?
Maybe 10-15 years ago head injuries were misunderstood and dealt with improperly. Nowadays, in our area at the high school level I feel we pay a lot more attention to any head injuries and treat all of them as potentially serious.
When did you first become aware of the dangers of sports-related brain injuries?
I first learned about concussions while playing high school football in the early 1990's. Our coaches and Athletic Trainer took head injuries seriously, though probably not to the extent that we do currently. And we players knew more about the physical injury than we did about cognitive effects or long-term damage.
Are you seeking more tools, resources and information in regards to head injury detection and prevention?
Coaches go through annual training which includes current head injury information. I try to pay attention to what the latest news and recommendations are each year.
Do you feel like Brain Injuries are overlooked or stigmatized in our society?
Society in general probably has a different view of head and brain injuries than the athletic world. But I think there is a lot of effective work being done right now to raise awareness across all sports and at all levels, and to take head and brain injuries seriously. And I see a lot of that spilling over into the rest of society, more and more every year.
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