Head Trauma and Learning

November 23, 2012

Researchers at my alma mater have joined their voices to the growing chorus of concerns about the effects of repeated blows to the head.

A study of the cognitive effects of head impacts on members of Dartmouth College football, hockey, track, crew and Nordic ski teams compared before and after season results on learning and memory skills.  Participating athletes also came from Brown and Virginia Tech.

  • 22 percent of athletes in contact sports had lower results on learning and memory skills tests after their season.
  • Only 4 percent of athletes in non-contact sports posted lower test results.

The researchers caution that it is unknown at this point how long these negative effects may last, but they also note there is some correlation between test results and how hard the athletes were hitting heads.

This adds to the mounting evidence that rules writers, program sponsors, coaches and officials must look for and implement a variety of measures to reduce the frequency and severity of head impacts in both practice and competition in all sports.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.