I am a mother of a freshly pressed adult son who plays rugby. I have no control over the bashings of his brains on the field in this gentlemen’s sport.
Instead, I dream about helmets and long for the return of playpens. In my troubled sleep, my hands clench and unclench as though I’m still tethered to a toddler. But I’m not.
Last September my son had a concussion. A badge of honour, it seemed to him; a boastful tale I hated to hear.
Today I’m writing an obituary on Dr. Jane Gillett. She was a Canadian neurologist who specialized in acquired brain injuries in children–and children, she insisted, include anyone under the age of 25. The human brain only reaches full development at 25. One of her specialties was in the area of sport-related concussions.
Concussions make headlines these days. In last Saturday’s Globe & Mail ex-goalie Ken Dryden asked: “How can we be so stupid?” about the thrashing a brain gets inside its thin helmet of skull. It’s comparable, he says, to stupidity about slavery; or about not granting women voting rights; or about smoking cigarettes.
This morning, back from the coffee bar with a double shot espresso in a tiny perfect cup, I got chatting with a friend from New Zealand, the land of rugby. She told me about how doctors there write prescriptions for rugby players so they can tape their ears flat down with electric tape before a game.
“You’re kidding, right?”
No, she said, for real. Sometimes the player’s cartilage get so torn from other players biting it that it can’t risk another tear.
I think Dr. Gillett, for all her brilliance and kindness, must have spent a lot of time bemoaning the stupidity. As for me? I just keep on worrying and hope he’ll soon get it.