Don’t smack your kids: Research into teenage football concussions

Several years ago, I ran posts showing that smacking kids on the back of the head is not good “discipline,” but physical abuse.  These posts have been some of my most-read ever, still getting hits every day.

I became so passionate about the subject after being emotionally traumatized by a couple who pretended to be my friends, but were really narcissists using me: Story here.  One of the traumatizing things they did, was to smack one of their kids–a toddler who was small for her age–on the back of the head, then laugh about it later.

I wrote about it on my website as a way to vent and purge the trauma.  They found it and accused me of defamation and “false facts,” even threatened to sue….So I ran several posts showing that smacking kids on the head is not only physical abuse, but harmful to the brain.  I haven’t seen any more threats from these people.

Now, I haven’t seen them on my blog for three months now, so I don’t know if they’ll ever be back here again.  But the question of brain injury from smacking is still important to me.

Now we have new evidence that yes, hard knocks to a child’s or teenager’s head are indeed harmful, even if they don’t lead to more than a “bell ringer.”  For one thing, the term “bell ringer” is no longer used medically, being replaced with the term “concussion.”  No longer do they speak of “mild concussions.”  You either have a concussion, or you don’t.  Bell ringer, mild concussion, it’s all a concussion now.

But does this apply to smacking a kid on the head as punishment?  It’s not a 200-pound linebacker slamming into your head, but think about the size of an adult vs. the size of a toddler, and how hard that adult could potentially hit the kid.  Isn’t it possible that a large adult could easily hit a child far harder than intended?  Or if the adult is furious–just how hard might that adult hit?

Then there’s the size of the couple who traumatized me.  Both were large people–the man was 6’4 and 400 pounds–and I got the impression that both of them smacked their little kids.  Imagine the force one of them could easily put into a smack.

Not only this, but an article in today’s newspaper explains that even small hits that don’t lead to concussions can lead, when repeated over time, to brain injury:

In an interview, Omalu said even hits not deemed to be concussions can be dangerous. Every time there is a blow to the head, he said, the brain suffers microscopic injuries. The brain does not have a built-in capacity to repair these injuries, meaning such “subconcussive blows” can accumulate.

There is no safe blow to the human head,” Omalu said. “Every impact to your head can be dangerous. That is why you need to protect your head from all types of blunt force trauma. A helmet does not make a difference.”

Research released this month from Boston University confirms Omalu’s worries about subconcussive blows. By studying the brains of deceased teenagers who had played football or other contact sports, researchers found that blows to the head — even if there were no symptoms of a concussion — can lead to the early stages of CTE, a degenerative brain disease. Signs of CTE were detected in the brains of three of the four research subjects.

…CTE has been linked to memory loss, impaired judgment and impulse control, aggression, depression, increased risk of suicide, Parkinson’s and dementia, according to the Boston University CTE Research Center.

…Borland believes the study’s focus on diagnosed concussions also will not account for subconcussive hits, which have been found to have negative effects on the brain. Nor will it yield the true number of concussions in the sport, given estimates developed by researchers in 2014 that less than one in every 20 concussions is reported by college football players.

No Such Thing as a Bell Ringer: UW players downplay concussions as evidence of trauma aftermath mounts

Another reason this issue is important to me has nothing to do with the abusive couple.  This goes back to college, and an abusive fiance, who was my spiritual husband.  No, he didn’t abuse me physically, though there were signs that would happen if we stayed together longer.  He did slap the girl who came after me.

But one day, he, his brother and his brother’s fiance, took me to the county fair.  One of the first rides we went on, was a spinning box.  I don’t remember how it happened, or even if I knew, but somehow, I hit my head while it was spinning.  Then, of course, the ride was still going, so the box kept spinning for a minute or two.  Finally, it ended, we got off–and I had a terrible headache.  I felt nauseated, and asked my fiance to take me back to his house to rest.

On the way past a first aid station, I asked if we could stop there, but he laughed at me like I was being ridiculous.  On the way home, everybody talked about going dancing that night.  They invited me along, but I said no, and I got upset that my fiance would even think about going there without me when I’d been injured.  I felt like I needed someone to care for me.

What response did I get to this?  That I was being unreasonable.  A party pooper.  That I didn’t want my fiance to have fun.  And no, this didn’t just come from my fiance: All three of them accused me of this.  Said I never wanted to go dancing with him (which was a lie, because I went to several dances with him, and liked dancing).  Said that because of me, he stopped going dancing every weekend–even though he never asked me to go dancing on the weekend, except for a few school dances, and he never even mentioned that he did this every weekend.  And of course, my fiance reported back to me what all they had said.  All three of them made me feel like an abusive, controlling bitch who didn’t want my fiance to have any fun at all–all because I had hit my head on a ride.  And what did his brother say?  He blamed me for getting hurt.

Several years later, when researching concussions, I realized what had happened to me was a concussion.  All the literature I read, a medical professional I consulted, and my now-husband, agreed that these people had treated me abominably.  That I had a concussion which needed to be properly tended to, but nobody bothered, nobody cared.  (I was two states away from home, so couldn’t go to my parents.)

The whole story of that episode is here.

So yeah, I have a personal interest in this.  It doesn’t matter to me if you’re dealing with teenagers playing football, or kids getting smacked by their parents, or somebody getting hurt on a ride: Concussions matter.  The brain has to be protected.  But even with such a high-impact and dangerous sport as football, the risk and treatment of concussions is being treated like it’s nothing.  So you have people like my ex-friends, thinking they can smack kids around and it’s not abuse.

This crap needs to stop.

For my other research on this, see Child Abuse, Examples of Child Abuse, Hitting Kids Upside the Head is ABUSE, Slapping Kids Upside the Head Causes Traumatic Brain Injury, Another site giving the dangers of slapping kids upside the head, and  …Because slapping kids on the head is ABUSE!  STOP THE VIOLENCE!.






One Comment
  1. Excellent post, Nyssa. And so true. I have been knocked unconscious four times in my life, three of which were due to abuse, and I have had numerous concussions that did not result in me losing consciousness. I can definitely tell that my cognitive abilities have been adversely affected, especially from the last beating, which happened in 1989.

    Your “friends” were horrible to you. All they cared about was their own pleasure. I am so glad you did not marry that guy!

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