Sports Heroes Choose to be Tough Guys; Dr. Bonnie Urges Them to Speak Up About Injuries

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The NFL commissioner recently told kids playing football that safety trumps being a tough guy (, but this is a message that even professional athletes should take to heart. Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil says doing otherwise can set a bad example and be detrimental to their health.

Professional athletes and kids alike suffer from the temptation to play the "tough guy" instead of speaking up about an injury that could be harmful to their health. USA Today reports that the NFL commissioner spoke out about this to young football players ( and Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil agrees his advice should be taken to heart - by professionals as well as children.

In the article, NASCAR star, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. revealed that he had driven in at least five races right after suffering a concussion. And NFL star Robert Griffin III has downplayed his concussion sustained during a game despite memory loss. Although professionals - like kids - hear the message of safety first it can be difficult to put into practice since their livelihood depends on them playing or participating in their sport. Because of this, Dr. Bonnie says the commissioner's message is one for everyone - "Don't be macho, don't push through, tell a coach or team doctor. Health is on the line!"

Dr. Bonnie ascribes this type of behavior to what she calls "magical thinking" - the belief that they'll be ok if they can just will it to happen; if they want it bad enough. She explains that this behavior starts in childhood when kids believe they can make certain things happen. "In adulthood, we do this by 'shaking it off,' or soldiering on. But in reality, the athlete is really just hurting themselves.

The good news is organizations like the NFL have taken steps to force players to take care of themselves. For instance, NFL rules prevented Griffin from returning to the game even though he wanted to. Never the less, athletes like Jeff Gordon allude to the fact that if a championship is on the line, they're not going to say anything about the potential damage of their injuries because they are also concerned about financially protecting themselves and their families.

Dr. Bonnie points out this is a type of Financial Infidelity - which she talks about more in her book of the same name. She says an athlete pretending to be fine in order to go on playing the game, so they can keep the income, status, or job is being unfaithful to themselves and potentially to their families. "Yes, many of these stars may be worried about the money, since the sport is their livelihood. But neglecting to take care of themselves isn't going to help themselves or their families in the long run!"

She emphasizes the importance of getting this message out to athletes, and for the athletes to then explain these imperatives to kids. "It's important to discuss athletes like Junior Seau - who recently committed suicide - and the role sports and injuries played in his life," says Dr. Bonnie, "to get athletes more comfortable talking about their injuries, and more comfortable taking time out if that's what they need." While the livelihood of kids who play sports isn't on the line, it's likely that their dreams, goals, and acceptance all are - and their potential livelihood in the future if they go on to play professionally.

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To see more of Dr. Bonnie discussing the impact of financial infidelity and sleepless nights click here:, for more information on dealing with adultery, click here:

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