The NFL football season began this past weekend. As I sat watching injury upon injury it struck me that the most frequent comment from the talking heads was the suggestion that the player might not get to return to the field. The next most frequent comment was the speculation of what the inability of the player to return meant to the team. We watch the players perform hobbled, unable to run with speed, or lack the mobility with which they generally perform, have difficulty holding onto the ball. Or a myriad other issues that diminish their abilities. Injuries occur in all sports, in all physical activities that impede the person’s activities. I have been there from sprained ankles at 7yo, to arthritic shoulders at 73 yo. Coaches have encouraged me to “play through the pain”. In other words, ignore the pain but tell me if it gets too bad. “Too bad?” Who gets to judge that level. “Can you pitch to one more batter?” “We need your shot from the corner, can you do that?” ” How about one more pickleball game?” The unsaid comment is to be named a “quitter.” Especially for injuries that are not apparent such as concussions, or torn muscles. Bones protruding through skin are different.
The of us who have experienced these requests recognize that there is really no question involved. The stated question implies a demand. “Ignore the pain and do your job!” The medical staff, if there is one, is tasked with getting the player back to the field, court, pool, etc. caring for the individual is secondary to the team. Sorry but that is the truth. For example the NFL concussion protocol requires the player be taken to a medical tent on the field and given a perfunctory exam. The player is then allowed back to the game if he passes simple tests. Concussions can take time to manifest symptoms, but by the time the player is mid-week, the concussion can become full blown.
However, this blog is not an attack on the NFL or any other sport or physical activity. As I was thinking about the “playing through the pain” theme, I made a connection with other areas of life. Pain is not only physical but can be emotional, behavioral, environmental, internal, external among other issues. The current situation with the coronavirus and the requirements for combating the pandemic can present us with pain. The pain of altering our lives, of losing work, distancing from friends and family. All of which presents each of us with confusion, cognitive dissonance, denial, overreaction, and a host of negative responses. We can hibernate or refuse to abide by the scientific requests. Each response can lead us to other consequences. If we hibernate, wear masks at all times, keep distances we probably will not contract COVID 19, but the consequences can be dire in loss of contact with others, fear of contact, hyper-vigilance, and loss of physical health. If we deny, the consequences are increased exposure to the virus with possibility of contracting the disease. Loss of acceptance in authority, especially in authority based on scientific principles and acceptance of unsound messages concerning the virus, which is a much stronger risk taking stance. The consequence to this is the thought that “I haven’t obeyed the medical authorities and I don’t have the virus, therefore they are wrong.” However, that statement is accurate only for the moment it is thought or uttered, it may not be accurate 10 minutes from now.
How do we play through this pain? At some point acceptance of the possibility of infection is necessary. Part of the issue is the difference between possibility and probability. Probability is the is the likelihood of something happening. Science likes to discuss the probability in percentile form. One has x probability out of xxxx for an event to take place. However, the percentile moves in relation to variables. For example: the probability of drowning while boating is x. The probability for drowning without a life preserver is xy, in choppy waters is xyz, in a hurricane the remainder of the alphabet. Nothing is guaranteed. Possibility is the likelihood of something happening, such as being killed by the proverbial diaper truck or a safe falling from a 3 story building. Ask the question “Could I have seen this coming?” If not you are dealing with possibility.
The question for all of us is “What is reasonable?” not “What do I want?” Trying to be prepared for the worst is a good approach. I try to work through my day by assuming that my fellow citizens will do their best to not infect me. But I also take precautions to avoid infection. I am not rabid about the event but planning ahead always is a logical and adult approach. It helps me to minimize my exposure. It allows me to play through the pain of missing friends and family, my daughter, son-in-law, grandson. I also refuse to focus on the minutiae of COVID statistics. Listening to hour by hour breakdowns of statistics frustrates me. Its information I don’t need. I will look at the longitudinal statistics, which gives me a better picture of trends. It also removes the panic of the situation.
We will get through this eventually but only if we are calm and reasonable.