Recall the rush, remember the exhilaration that comes to you every time you step on the track, field or arena. Call to mind the smells of the ice, the grass, the dirt. Hear the resonating sound of the crowd, the time clock, and the band. Any player can recall the atmosphere of their favorite sport.

What players, coaches and even parents fail to recall is that every sport which pulls at our adrenaline heart-strings comes with risk. The risk of a traumatic brain injury can happen at any age level from recreational youth sports to the pros, and is just as likely to affect girls and women a boys and men. Long-term effects of these injuries can last for years if left untreated, ignored, or happen often.

Although recent press might have people convinced that concussions are only for football players, brain injuries can disable any athlete from a football player to a cheerleaders falling from a lift. Hockey players can be injured by falls or hits and horseback riders can get thrown. Skateboarders, rock climbers, and off-road riders can take terrible spills.

This all sounds pretty gruesome. It isn’t intended to scare people, but rather, to inform them. In recent years policies and laws have been called into question to be sure we are protecting our athletes and using only the best practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an article to encourage coaches, parents, and players to be informed on preventative and reactive measures.

Prevention is the key to combating traumatic brain injury. Make sure your brain is protected and have a properly fitted and well-maintained helmet, appropriate for your sport. The key about helmets is to actually wear them, with all their straps fastened for every single second of game action. For those suiting up off the playing field, be familiar with your bike, motorcycle, or skateboard. Be sure they are in good working order and meet safety regulations. And those venturing off the beaten path to climb or ride equestrian, use proper equipment, know your route and be aware of potential hazards.

React when bad things happen. Know the signs of a concussion, including a headache or pressure in the head, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears or loss of consciousness. Remember, a concussion can happen with all or only some of these symptoms and a person does not need to lose consciousness to have suffered a brain injury. Seek medical attention. Never return to your sport before being cleared to do so by a doctor. Keep your coaching staff informed of injuries so they may do the best to help you. Always inspect head-gear after an injury to be sure it is safe to use.

The rigors of an athletic sport create a fun outlet in which to be fit. Friendship, sportsmanship, and confidence are built through sports and team activities. Although it is important for coaches, players, and parents to be educated about the risks involved with sports, it is important to not let the negatives outweigh the positives.