Last Sunday, as my kids, my husband and I were sitting down to dinner, we watched Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III collapse on the football field toward the end of their wild-card play-off loss against the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, we had the TV on during dinner (bad parents!) but hey, it’s the play-offs, and we had it on mute. We needed no sound to tell us the significance of what had just happened, however. Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you know that RG3 took the field with a not-yet-healed knee injury, re-injured it early in the game, and then continued to play until this final blow. For the last few days, there’s been nonstop talk in the sports world about why he insisted on playing and why his coach let him. This morning RG3 went under the knife and estimates on when he will return to the playing field vary from eight months to a year, with many experts pointing out that he may never again have the same speed and mobility that has brought him such success.
As a sports fan, I get it. It’s the biggest game of the season and you’re the biggest star on the field. You want to show up, your coach wants you to show up, the team, the fans… and so on. But as a mom with three athletic kids who’ve all known their share of sports injuries, it now becomes my job to explain such a misguided decision to them. “It’s a unique opportunity to give your kids some perspective about professional sports versus the games they play, as well as making their own decisions,” notes University of Alabama clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., who is also the official psychologist for Jox 94.5 sports radio in Birmingham. “They need to be introduced to the idea of good pain [okay to play through] and bad pain [you need to stop now]. Explain to them, ‘If your body is telling you ‘don’t do this,’ you have to pay attention to how you feel no matter what somebody else tells you.”
It was a heated debate during dinner that night. “He looked fine at the beginning of the game but then you could tell it was starting to hurt and getting worse,” noted my 11-year-old son. “He should have come out then.”
So why didn’t he? This is when you want to make three points about professional athletes to your kids in terms they can understand, explains Klapow.