Interview with Sean White
Sean is a childhood friend that I’ve known since the 8th grade. Throughout high school he was also involved in high contact sports like hockey,lacrosse, and football. He is also a coach for a peewee hockey time. Below is the transcript of the interview I had with him on concussions and the effects they produce.
Me: Do you know what concussions are and the signs/symptoms that accompany them?
Sean: Concussions are head injuries that result in a loss of brain function. Signs and symptoms vary, but can include physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, loss of motor skills, sensitivity to light and/or cognitive symptoms such as loss of consciousness, confusion, and difficulty focusing (reading and speak).
Me: When did you first start to learn about concussions and the effects it has on the brain?
Sean: I started to really learn about concussions and the effects they have on the brain in 2010 because I thought that I might have suffered from one the previous night while playing hockey. I didn’t begin to feel the effects until the next day at work. I remember trying to read a short email at work and just couldn’t process it. Although, I played peewee/ middle school football from 1994–1999, I don’t recall coaches or parents talking or being concerned about concussions. I’ve coached peewee hockey for the last 2 years and now have to be able to identify the symptoms to keep the kids from playing if we think they have one. In the last 2 years, I’ve seen 4 kids suffer from concussions. In some cases, the kids aren’t cleared by their doctors for a couple of weeks. You would be surprised that even the smallest amount of contact can cause one.
Me: Has is changed your perception on sports, like football and hockey?
Sean: No. Since I was a young kid I knew that sports like boxing, football and hockey were violent sports. I think that as you grow older you have a better understanding of the risks involved in playing contact sports, but I’ve always perceived these sports to be violent.
Me: With the knowledge you have now, looking back, did you ever suffer any concussions personally? How severe were they and did it affect you afterwards?
Sean: According to my family, I fell off of a plastic horse at 18 months and lost consciousness for a couple of minutes. The horse was attached to 4 springs, attached to a frame — basically a bull ride for kids, not safe at all. I don’t think I suffered any while playing football from age 9–14 or lacrosse from 16–17. My first concussion as an adult happened while playing hockey, as a goalie, in 2010. I took a soft shot off of the mask and didn’t think anything of it until the next day at work. I remember trying to read a short email at work and couldn’t process it. I’ve had a couple others since then, all caused by a puck to the helmet. I’ve never had any of the physical symptoms, most of the time I just feel slow the next day. Most often, I’ll lose my train of thought while speaking and the symptoms usually last a day or two.
Me: Are you worried about the possible effects in the future as a result from a concussion?
Sean: No. I don’t think that mine have been that severe to be worried.
Me: Knowing what you know, would you still have played those sports?
Sean: Absolutely. There are risks[in]every sport. Snowboarder could be swept up by an avalanche, a sky diver’s parachute may not open, a racecar driver’s car could explode. Obviously these are extreme examples, but as an individual participating in these sports you have to know the risks and ask yourself “is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Me: What do you think of young kids playing tackle football? Should tackling be outlawed until a certain age?
Sean: I think tackle football is appropriate at ages 10–12, if the teams and leagues have weight restrictions, similar to the league I played. I started playing organized football at the age of 9 and tackle football at age 10. I am pretty sure the league didn’t allow tackling until age 10, which I think is appropriate. I currently coach peewee hockey, ages 11–12, and they are not allow to start hitting or checking until ages 13–14, so I think there are already some good regulations in place.
Me: Would you let your kids be involved in contact sports? Why or why not?
Sean: If that is their passion, absolutely (to a degree). I would certainly talk to them about concussions and the health risks involved in playing contact sports, but would pull them out of the sport if I thought that they were to a point where they were suffering from multiple injuries.