We all hate to see it. The play is over, and players in the pile get up, but one player doesn't. Sometimes you see the injury as it happens. Sometimes it is a mystery. Either way, nothing quiets a crowd like a sports injury. It does not matter whether it occurs in pre-school T-ball or the Super Bowl,
But how people react can divide a crowd along gender lines. Men are thinking, "That looks bad. Wonder how many games it will take to recover from that." Women, on the other hand, are thinking the same thing, but with a difference: their instinctive reaction is to also ask, "Where is his mom?"
If a sports event is televised and it is a prolonged sports injury timeout, the camera will often search out the injured player's mother. When they do, I just have to look away. Obviously, she is being held down by an electro-magnet. Everything in her face says, "I need to be on the field. My kid needs me!" Tense moments pass and then finally the player goes off the field or court or diamond, hopefully without assistance or on a stretcher. I am left to wonder, ""Where is their mom, now?"
This is a topic near and dear to me, and for all the moms out there, I am sure I am not alone. What does a mom do when her son or daughter is injured? Just sit politely in the stands, waiting for news? I don't think so! Go berserk, get your child, and race in your car to the nearest hospital? Makes sense, but probably if we are talking about really young athletes.
For male athletes, of whatever age, the unspoken "man code" is to require us moms to suffer in silence. But we moms have a code of our own: Mother knows best!
Field of our own. I thought I knew what was best until about 2 years ago, when my son at age 9 first entered the world of tackle football. Like most moms in that situation, I was a little tense. I was not used to the sound of tackling. The helmet was bigger than his torso. He seemed to like it, so I went along with the program. I yelled and cheered like every other fan.
Calling all moms. During one Sunday game, my son was on the bottom of the dog pile. All the kids up and were accounted for, except for one. A little body lay motionless on the ground. I quickly scanned all numbers on the backs of the players who got up. Scanned them again. Where was #34? Then I recognized the shoes: It was MY KID! Coaches were already on the field to check out the situation. I gave them a 30-second head start. Then I went where no mom is supposed to go: I went on the field, armed with my Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance card and my cell phone. My husband had not been standing with me on the sidelines. When he saw me bolt across the field, I am sure he recognized super-human strength and knew nothing was stopping me. As I got to where the coaches were checking out my son, I had 911 dialed in and was ready to press send. One coach, more than a bit shocked to see me on the field, tried to assure me everything would be okay because one of the dads who coached the team was also a doctor. No, I didn't think so! I found myself shrieking at the top of my voice, "What are you? A dermatologist? Get away from my kid! I'm calling 911 NOW!"
Just then my son, a little annoyed, said to me, "Mom, I'm OK. I just got the wind knocked out of me." Wind or no wind, that was it; I grabbed my kid, insurance card and cell phone and headed to the car. No more football for us today. Turned out, my son was okay, thank goodness, but I caused quite a stir among the men-folk in our family. What was my punishment for stomping on the man code? What happens to a mom who actually goes on the field? Well, I was banished from the sideline for a few games, and when I was finally allowed to go back to a game, my punishment was/is still seeing this great dad/coach/doctor and suffering the embarassment of calling his 13 years of surgical training into question. I actually changed grocery stores so I would not run into him or his family!
Time out. So, after my own "Mamma Grizzly" moment, I started to watch football games on TV to see what the protocol was in college and pro games. Every sport has injuries and their way of handling them. I had supposedly crossed the line in football and wanted to learn. After a few injury time outs which turned into commercial breaks, I told my son that they went to commercial because the mom was on the field and she had not signed up to be on TV. This went well for about 6 weeks. My son was 9, and the tooth fairy and Santa were still at stake. After a while, though, when no mom ever appeared on the field, my explanation wouldn't fly anymore and was just met with a sad shake of the head. The Man Code was still alive and well. Or so it seemed.
Redemption Day. Friday, October 7, 2011 was a game-changer. I was watching the news on ESPN that morning when they ran highlights of the University of California/University of Oregon game. Oregon's star La Michael James had one heck of a game; perhaps a Heisman Trophy-worthy performance. But then they showed La Michael going down, the players in the pile getting up, but not La Michael. And what they showed next was incredible: his mother! On the field! With her son! Admittedly, she wasn't shown sprinting on to the field like I did; she was walking with determination, not running, but she was THERE! She boldly went where few moms dared to tread. Whether she was given permission to be there or just bulled her way on to the field of a televised game, for all the world to see, it just didn't matter. She was doing what every sports mom, at the first sign their child is in danger, at least thinks about doing!
Code Breaker. In the post-game press conference, La Michael said his injury wasn't too serious, and that he would probably be able to play again in a couple of weeks. No mention of his mom, although, when all is said and done, I am sure he was glad she was there for him. After all, she's was his mom, moms know best, and she had a code of her own to follow!
All of this is not to say the subject of injuries in youth sports shouldn't be taken seriously. They should. If a parent feels their child has been injured, especially if they suspect a head injury, my advice is to take every precaution for their health and safety. It is the responsibility of all of us, including coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, athletes and parents to keep kids safe on the field and off! But, as they say, laughter is sometimes the best medicine!
Gretchen Rose is a wife and mom of a teen and tween from Dallas, Texas. She and her husband are owners of KidzMat, the premier organizational equipment for all youth sports teams.