One thing my nonprofit, Headway Foundation, has placed particular emphasis on since launching is a program surrounding sports culture and concussions. The CDC estimates that 69% of student athletes neglect to report possible concussions symptoms, and there is a growing breadth of studies highlighting the risk posed to athletes who continue to play with head injuries.
Not only did we put together an extensive educational section that includes information on the importance of timely removal from play (see here), but we also started a program that engages directly with athletes and encourages them to handle concussion properly (see here). To support these efforts and spread our message, we created a new phrase and produced a short film video. The phrase that we feel speaks most directly and poignantly the cultural stigma surrounding sports concussions is "New Tough".
Maybe it sounds weird at first.. but think about it... toughness is a familiar phrase in sports. Traditional toughness commends pushing through pain and glorifies big hits. It is a tendency so deeply ingrained into an athlete's mindset, as it should be. In order to succeed in sports, and in life for that matter, you need to be Tough. Gritty. Intense. Relentless. Call it whatever you want - an athlete gets this concept and often thrives off of it. So what we've tried to do with New Tough is reframe a pre-existing and understandable term in order to get everyone thinking about concussions a little differently.
Because there is nothing tough about playing through a head injury.
What we would argue, in fact, is that it's tougher to remove yourself from play when a concussion is suspected. It's tougher to admit when you don't feel right. And it's a lot tougher to stay patient and resilient during what can sometimes become a long and arduous recovery. We always knew this type of toughness existed, but for a long time there was never a term that clearly expressed it. So we created "New Tough", a phrase that broadens and reframes our traditional understanding of toughness.
So to all the athletes out there, and to everyone struggling with an injury or illness you cannot visibly see, we challenge you to be New Tough. Watch our vide below to see what this looks like: