Learning and listening

IMG_6105I’ve been busy with some lovely opportunities to share knowledge, and more importantly, listen to what others think about concussion, sports and the media.

Speaking as part of a panel of journalists at the American Academy of Neurology’s Sports Concussion Conference provided an impact chance to hear from neurologists. Quick summary: many feel the media is doing so-so job in communicating medical information. They’re wondering why facts are wrong, studies misinterpreted, and news reports are too short. And their definition of media is everything: bloggers, tweeters, reporters, even athletes themselves who are interviewed. I believe very much in both sides of that free speech equation, professional media and citizen-driven media, as they have different roles to play in getting out information, thoughts and opinion. There are powerful journalists who are good at what they do, and there are bloggers/social media types who do great jobs too in serving the public. And yes, the other side is true too, there are incompetent journalists and non-professionals. It was good to hear from the neurology community about their perceptions, as it can help me think about being a better journalist and college professor.

The other side had their thoughts heard at the Association for Women in Sports Media‘s annual convention, where Dr. Kutcher presented on concussion/sports neurology for media, and we took some questions afterwards. The whole concept of privacy for famous athletes, as in…do we in the media have a right to know a player’s medical status/diagnosis?… is something the medical profession and journalists probably will not agree on. We seek information. The medical community is sworn to protect their patients. Having these debates, which are totally smart, friendly, and actually fun, helps both sides think about what the other is trying to do. They are important, because the media may need to think more about the impact on athletes as people, and the medical community may think why we are looking for that information.



The book life

Writing a book is a funny thing. While you are in process, it seems like the work will never end. Reporting, thinking, writing, ripping up what you wrote, reading it, changing it, editing it – over and over, chapter by chapter. In our case with Back in the Game, we’ve been thinking and working since early 2013 on this.

My co-author, Jeff Kutcher MD, and I were lucky, because we both knew what needed to be said, how it should be done. Concussions are a daily discussion in sports, with an array of information. Some is accurate, some is fantasy, some in the middle blurred.

So we’re looking forward to the world getting to see the book soon – as in the end of July for some…and starting the discussion about concussion and youth sports.

We hope to educate youth sports parents and coaches, and even reach teen athletes about concussion. Don’t live in fear of concussion – but also don’t be cavalier. It’s an injury to the brain, simply put. So of course we need to be careful. But telling kids not to play sports because of concussion fears is also a harmful situation.




Back in the Game is coming!


Yep! That’s the book we’ve been working on for two years….and it’s almost here! Coming Sept. 1, from Oxford University Press, is “Back in the Game” by Dr. Jeff Kutcher and myself. It’s aimed at the millions of parents, coaches and athletes involved in youth sports. We want to help educate, inform and lead thinking about concussions in sports. We take a smart, informed tone, while still being super-real world about things. We want it to be like having a cup of coffee, and having a great discussion about the subject.

We take concussion seriously, and explore the many ramifications of the brain injury. We also look at how sports can shape positive identity, and why it is a great facet of childhood development.

If you’d like to pre-order, we’re up on Amazon.

We’re super excited that this is becoming so real! Thanks for the support.

Book = finish line!

I feel like I have been watching a zombie movie for the past two years. Except I am the zombie. Writing a book that will never die.

But the book, aka the concussion book, aka now known as “Back in the Game”, is in the final stages to be released this fall by Oxford University Press. It has been a labor of love by zombie 1 (me), and zombie 2 (Dr. Jeff Kutcher). We so excited and proud of the work, knowing we are sincere in our desire to advance the discussion about sports neurology and athlete brain health.

In that vein, here’s a link to a recent piece we did on that subject.

And we have a book!

The work has been going on for nearly 2 years, but the finish line is here!

Our book, “Back in the Game: Why Concussion Doesn’t Have to End Your Athletic Career”, will be published late this summer by Oxford University Press. Dr. Jeff Kutcher, my co-author, and I are super excited to have done this labor of love for youth parents, coaches and athletes.

More info to come on the book, and where you can get it!
2016 book flyer

We need to talk…

I am doing a lot of speaking on concussions/sports/media these days, and had two things happen recently that were fascinating:

1) After a presentation at the University of Michigan’s Injury Center Concussion Summit, I was asked it we (meaning the U.S. Govt), should have a board of review in place for the media. This person, who was well meaning, thought the bad science should be stopped before it got out in the media. I answered him, wondering aloud if the First Amendment would get in the way of that strategy. He laughed, realizing he forgot about that silly thing, but then told me…I don’t believe in Free Speech. Whoa. Whoa.

Free speech is not a belief, it is a law. And a damned good one at that. Is it problematic…sure. But the good far outweighs the bad. So count me in on team free speech. Even it it lets yahoos say really ignorant stuff about concussions.

2) I next spoke, a few weeks later, at a high school journalism event where a student came up to me afterwards and said she wanted to write about her school’s protocols…because the administration stopped her. I was heartbroken.

She was trying to do a good thing, inform her audience at the school, and the reactionary fools at her schools stopped her cold. I was really sad for her…in essence, she was censored the way the first gentleman thought would be appropriate. I encouraged her to keep trying. The topic is too important not to discuss.

Science, journalism, the truth all operate the same way – they come out, they may be unpleasant, but they need to see the light of day.

Living in fear, from concussion – and even the discussions of concussions – is not a good world to live in.

Concussions are not black and white

One of the interesting things I have discovered, in the process of writing a book about concussions and youth sports, is that everybody has some type of opinion/conspiracy theory to share.

They fall along similar lines: Concussions are killing people – or they really don’t exist…just another media hype example. I am not yet meeting a lot of the in-between crowd, the concussions should be taken seriously, but not to the point of paralyzing fear.

It’s funny, because I cannot get a read – yet – on who is going to hit me with which theory. I used to think to think it was the moms who would be on #teamscary, while the dads would pick #teamdenial. I am really fascinated by both sides, because their positions can be equally radical – and equally wrong. But I love they share what they think, as it better informs me about what we need to discuss and illustrate.

I can’t wait to get the book out, so we can really start a good discussion with both sides. I am going to be really interested in that!

If you want more info on the book, go to ConcussionClarity.com.


Thoughts for the summer…

– If it ever stops raining, then I will declare, Happy Summer! 🙂 But seriously, it is great to be away from the classroom for a bit to work on other things. The concussion book is nearing the finish line, I have a slew of pieces coming out in other publications, and I am working on other projects. All good.
– Watch concussionclarity.com soon for a lot of new content coming there too, we are working on some resources for parents and media.
– Until then, get outside, eat some ice cream, and say hi to the fireflies!


Spring has sprung…at last…

Wanted to throw some stuff against the wall, scattershot style. Used to work with the legendary Joe Falls at the Detroit News, who would write about cookies, cats, the DH, and Babe Ruth in one column. I promise not to be that esoteric…Joe could do that, because after all, he was in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (God rest your soul, Uncle Joe…)


– South By Southwest 2015: Our “Does Sports Equal Brain Damage?” panel was a success, and glad to have had the amazing experience. It was an intense thing, as we did a Tweetchat, I did some media work, and then the main event, the panel. Learned a lot about how SXSW works (amazing planning, whoa! Like a 200-ring circus), and was amused by some of the PR/marketing stunting around the main tent. Glad we did it.IMG_0027_2

– I caught some grief for this from the non-kitty people on my trip – and you KNOW who you are – but meeting the completely magical Lil’ Bub was up there as a massive highlight. Bub, as her Dude (her cat dad Mike) says – is pure science and magic. So true. She had a meet and greet at an animal shelter in suburban Austin, and she was one of the sweetest, most content kitties ever. And so tiny! Bub did a lot of good for other animals, and I was happy to meet her and give her a kiss on her tiny, tiny head. Rock on Miss Bub. And much love and thanks to the Dude.Joanne and Bub

– Happy to say Michigan State’s Sports Journalism program is coming out of the incubator and into the real. I am continually humbled and amazed by the enthusiasm, talent, and inventiveness of the students who want to go into sports media. And yes, despite all the doom and gloom, I see a strong future for media – especially in sports. You have to be good, have a thick skin, and be willing to work your ass off to succeed. But isn’t that true of anything? You can’t succeed in neurology, baking cupcakes for a living, or being a writer unless you can hit the fastball with the best of them and commit to being the best. It doesn’t come easy, and that is what I think discourages some. They think it is easy, because it is sports. Well, they are learning the truth in my classes, and I hope, making themselves even more fantastic to kick ass in the real world.

So love to all, big world out there. Let’s all kick ass.


Long time no speak!

So can you tell I have been busy?! Too busy to blog? Yep, sorry. But between book writing, South by Southwest presenting, writing and teaching, life has been crazy, but crazy good.