Wesley Osborn makes contact in a recent Wildcat soccer game. Photo by Steve Donica.

As a former Lake Highlands soccer mom, I was riveted when I heard a story on National Public Radio yesterday about athletic concussions as a form of traumatic brain injury. In many ways the Fresh Air program reminded me of the movie Waiting for Superman – staggering statistics came alive in dramatic stories featuring real people. High school and college athletes in sports like football, soccer and wrestling are at risk of serious, life-long problems due to concussions sustained during athletic games and practices. Though the percentages of players reporting concussions remains small, new studies show that about half these athletes receive a concussion each year.

Chris Nowinski, who was interviewed on the show, played football at Harvard and became a pro wrestler. He described experiencing memory loss, blackouts and hallucinations. He saw multiple doctors, always answering “zero” to “how many concussions have you sustained?” because he didn’t know he’d had any. Sure, he’d been dinged up. Hadn’t they all.

Senior Travis Patrick goes head-to-head with an opponent in a recent match. Photo by Steve Donica.

By the time he found a doctor who knew what questions to ask in diagnosing a concussion and understood the need to rest the brain afterward, the damage had been done.

Nowinski now runs a non-profit organization which raises awareness about concussions. He speaks to players, trainers and coaches about the importance of caring for the brain of an athlete and about the consequences of jumping back in too fast. In a field where no one wants to listen to Mom, it’s great to have him stepping up as an advocate.