Playing with pain has long been considered a trademark of toughness in athletics, a badge of courage that earns the person such revered titles as gamer or warrior.
Tape it up, numb it, take a couple Tylenol and get back out there. Put me in coach, I'm ready to play. Coaches in all sports at all levels have tremendous respect for those who are willing to grit their teeth and shake it off.
Thankfully, we've graduated from some of those archaic trains of thoughts, though durability remains a prized quality to have as an athlete. Passion doesn't always come with a dash of discretion.
Coach: "You OK?" Player concerned with losing their position: "Sure, I'm fine (even if they're not)."
Knees, shoulders and arms are one thing, your brain is another. An injury to any of the first three can end a season, an injury to the latter can affect the rest of your life.
It's one thing for a doctor to tell you no more sports. It's quite another for that person to say you can return to the court or field, but you do so with the potential of further harm. As most of us have come to know with brain traumas, once it's happened once, the chances of it happening again markedly increase, as does the potential for permanent harm.
Kids tend to live in the moment and not look at the big picture. That's what being a kid is all about. You don't think of how something that happens when you're 16 is going to impact you when you're 40.
Fortunately, diagnostic advances have been made that can clarify what someone might otherwise shrug off as a nagging headache. With all head injuries, players must complete a concussion protocol before they return to action.
I talked this week to a local high school athlete who suffered a pair of concussions in the span of less than a month. After doing an interview, the family decided they didn't want it publicized, so I can only address it anonymously.
The gist of their story? Take every concussion seriously, regardless of how it's medically categorized. If you don't feel ready, don't come back until you do, even if you've been cleared. If you feel like the reward doesn't outweigh the risk, then walk away. It's high school. No one's paying you to do it. It's your prerogative. It's your life.
No two situations are the same. No one else can tell you what to do, but if you can find someone who's walked in the same shoes you're in, it doesn't hurt to ask them to share their thoughts.
It's not just a football thing. All forms of athletics come with an inherent danger, some obviously more than others. That's a chance you take when you play. Memories of high school sports are something to be cherished the rest of your life. Then again, what good are memories if you can't remember them?
Play it smart. Play it safe.
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.