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Chris Nowinski: Teammates Should Watch For Signs Of Concussion

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Christopher Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) is the co-founder and executive director of the Concussion Legacy Foundation (formerly Sports Legacy Institute), a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the sports concussion crisis, and a co-founder and investigator and the Boston University CTE Center, where he is also a PhD candidate in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Nowinski also serves on the NFL Players Association Mackey-White TBI Research Committee, the Ivy League Concussion Committee, and as a consultant to Major League Lacrosse. A former Harvard football player and WWE professional wrestler, Nowinski was forced to retire from a series of concussions in 2003. His challenging recovery from post-concussion syndrome led him to write the critically-acclaimed book Head Games in an effort to educate parents, coaches, and children about this previously hidden public health issue. The book later inspired an award-winning documentary of the same name in 2012.

Coaches cannot see every possible concussion, so it is important that athletes self-report if they experience such symptoms as double-vision, headache or a ringing in the ears. One way to earlier recognize and treat concussions, especially if the coach does not notice an injury and a player is too injured or afraid to self-report, is to have teammates check on each other after a head trauma.

Coaches should instruct players in what to look for in their teammates, and they should emphasize to all players, that playing through concussions is not a sign of toughness, but does hurt the team's competitive effort by trying to play with an athlete whose reaction time and cognition are compromised.