This one is for the old guys.

Those that played football back in the day when a concussion meant you got your bell rung and as soon as you knew where you were, you could go back in the game.

The basketball player who was told to “walk off” the ankle sprain.

The pitcher who was sore from too many pitches and was told to rub some kind of balm on it.

Where are you today? Better yet, how is your health today? Is that limp from an injury that happened 40 years ago? Has the back injury that happened to you as a teenager lingered to this day?

Through the years, I’ve had people tell me about “weak ankles” that started when they were in high school. Or the lingering effects of a long ago knee injury.

It’s a true story that years ago, concussions were approached differently than they are today. I played a high school football game that I don’t remember.

Didn’t remember it then and don’t remember it now.

I think I remember getting hit in the head early in the game, but the next thing I remember is being back in our locker room at home, having a sandwich and cold milk.

I can remember watching the film of the game and being almost disconnected from what was on the screen, having no memory of any part of the game. I’ve had others tell me similar stories.

I remember one game when I stepped up into the hole to make a tackle on this big, bruising fullback. I’ve told the story often.

It was Loudon-Maryville and I can take you to the place on the MHS football field where it happened.

I did just like my coaches taught me, taking him on with my inside shoulder and driving my feet as I hit him.

And I tackled the Maryville fullback, Hal Ferst, 20 yards down the field.

Then I got up and started looking for my right arm, certain that Mr. Ferst had ripped my arm out of its socket.

Back then, we had nothing in the way of sports medicine. Occasionally, a local family doc, Dr. Sam, would show up for a game but I’m not sure what he thought he could do. And that was just for football games. We approach things differently today.

If we had an ankle injury, a coach might tape an ankle but mostly you just continued playing. Were we tougher back then? I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe we just didn’t know any better.

Today we have athletic trainers at hundreds of sporting events in this county every year.

Literally hundreds. Sports medicine professionals that are well trained in identifying injuries and knowing exactly what to do with them.

I’ve said many times I want to provide the care to my athletes so that in 20 or 30 years, they are not still having problems with those injuries.

I don’t want to make a mistake or give advice that causes problems a lot later.

Too many folks are avoiding sports participation today because of the fear of injury. Or, more specifically, parents are discouraging sports participation for their children. I think that is a mistake.

Our games are safer today than ever before.

There aren’t more concussions now, we just know to respect them. Torn ACLs can be repaired with minimal risk of long term affects.

Ankle sprains can be treated and protected.

Shoulder problems that years ago ended careers can now be repaired, rehabilitated, and returned to competition.

We know more, we do more, and when I see a former athlete that I’ve taken care of, I can look them in the eye and know that they got my very best effort.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email to write to him.

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