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  • Concussions and the kendoka

    Does anybody have any advice for avoiding concussions during practice? Is this something I could potentially avoid with padding in my men? Or is my brain just too mushy or my technique just too bad? Here's the back story... any thoughts would be much appreciated.

    This is the second time I've sustained a concussion during practice. It is caused not by the blow itself but by me kind of running into somebody else's shinai or them doing the equivalent and jarring my head in the armor. The first time it happened, I didn't connect the dots, ignored the symptoms and went to the next practice. After that practice, I slept for three days and had slurred speech and general confusion for about a week after. That's when I realized something was up. Did I go to the doctor? Um, no. But I did take time off of kendo.

    The same thing happened during practice last night. It was not nearly as bad as the first time but I felt immediately nauseous and knew I had to monitor myself. This morning I realized things weren't ok and went to the student health clinic. They did a rough neuro exam, said it was abnormal and made me go to the hospital for an emergency cat scan because they thought my brain was bleeding. Good news is it's completely fine, no bleeding BUT it is a concussion. The bad news is my entire family and all the doctors think I should quit kendo. Obviously, I don't want to. I agree that I need to take these types of injuries more seriously than I have in the past. But beyond that and possibly some padding, I'm not really sure what to do.

  • #2
    I have a lot of thoughts on this so I'll try not to ramble.

    I am glad you took the issue seriously (eventually). I've noticed among a few people a somewhat alarming nonchalance about concussions and Kendo, particularly among people who haven't ever experienced these symptoms. Much as American football is beginning to take concussions very seriously yet a few "old school" people continue to suggest "that's just how the game is played"; personally I think Kendo should be very cognizant of the risks and a bit more sensitive to people who mention symptoms. (At least in my circles).

    That is not to say that in my experience what you are describing comes up very frequently. In fact I've actually never heard of anyone having such severe symptoms before. I have had two concussions from Kendo and neither was even nearly as bad as these--just some disorientation and nausea for 24 hours or so. So my point here is that you have had a very bad experience, I'm glad you're taking it seriously, and I hope others around you do as well.

    My second point is to ask how this occurred a little more specifically since you are asking for how to avoid it. I don't know what you mean by "running into someone else's shinai." A shinai by itself is just a few pieces of fairly flexible bamboo and running into it shouldn't cause anything like a heavy hit. What causes (in my experience) a hit that is hard enough to be potentially concussing is one of two things: either your opponent is bearing down with all their weight and hitting with the middle or lower part of the shinai and not the monouchi; or you get hit on the back of the head by a "wraparound" strike--likely because you were ducking. I had one of each. I don't duck anymore. See where I'm going with this? If you think you got such bad hits because you ducked into a cut -- don't duck! If you think someone is hitting you so hard they are bearing down and using the wrong part of the shinai in doing it, raise it with your sensei. I know it's hard as a beginner to say something so if this is ostensibly advanced people, what you can do is what I still do with people like that, I back up an extra foot as motodachi and tilt my head back so they hit the mengane. Usually this gets the message across and if it doesn't, at least I'm not getting wrecked.

    My next thought is to mention as an aside that I actually just bought a new men which alone cost more than my entire first set of bogu just because I wanted more padding so I'd avoid even the notion of a concussion again. I feel like if it allows me to keep doing Kendo without concerns like you are raising it was well worthwhile. Maybe look into it (see my thread under "bogu.") Frankly I'd love to see some modern anti-concussion science be applied to kendo bogu (men) such as has been used in the NFL for helmets. I suspect our armor could look much the same and have very different and more protective guts. But maybe I'm wrong about that.

    My last thought is probably not what you are wanting to hear but I'll say it anyway and I imagine it will be repeated: Your family and doctors are probably right. I've never heard of such severe concussion symptoms outside of car accidents and professional atheletes. Kendo is great, but it's not worth permanent neurological damage. If I had what you had I'd quit. Period. Maybe take up Iaido. Maybe just golf. Some people are more prone to concussions for whatever reason and if you read the studies even the doctors don't know why that is (no I'm not a doctor, this is just a big issue for me). Sorry I don't have a better answer for you.

    Comment


    • #3
      Go to a doctor. This can be caused by many things like ill-fitting equipment, Men that no longer absorb impact properly, Bad posture, improper technique from the opponent and other physical causes. Without looking at you, your opponent and your equipment we cannot tell you which one (s) are causing it.



      Go to a doctor

      Comment


      • #4
        FWIW, I have never actually seen a concussion from kendo, nor do i know anyone who's had one.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Lloromannic View Post
          FWIW, I have never actually seen a concussion from kendo, nor do i know anyone who's had one.
          This is what I hear most often from people when the subject comes up. Since you can't "see" a concussion, the only way you know about it is if someone tells you. My theory is that people get them albeit infrequently, but that the people who do just think they got hit hard, go home and feel sick, and then don't mention it--either getting better and addressing the problem or quitting.

          But as for what the OP is describing, I had never (before now) heard of such serious symptoms before. (Btw, he said he went to the doctor already and the doctor told him to quit.)

          Comment


          • #6
            In that case I'd check possible quipment and posture issues, and ithose are unresolved, well, follow the doctor's advice.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jjcruiser View Post
              This is what I hear most often from people when the subject comes up. Since you can't "see" a concussion, the only way you know about it is if someone tells you. My theory is that people get them albeit infrequently, but that the people who do just think they got hit hard, go home and feel sick, and then don't mention it--either getting better and addressing the problem or quitting.
              I agree with this. For sure. I have never experienced a concussion during practice, but I have been hit hard enough to feel a ringing sting in my dental nerves before. Concussions can also be caused without a truly impressive impact. Some people have actually died from secondary blows (Second Impact Syndrome) that were pretty much weak compared to what we receive in Kendo even. We had a high school football player out here die a few years back under such circumstances. You should always, always, always take any blow to the head seriously when it coincides with a period in which you do not feel well. No matter how 'weak' the blow seemed at the time.

              To the original poster...

              Originally posted by alta View Post
              The bad news is my entire family and all the doctors think I should quit kendo. Obviously, I don't want to. I agree that I need to take these types of injuries more seriously than I have in the past. But beyond that and possibly some padding, I'm not really sure what to do.
              In an ideal situation, it would be easy to seek out a Japanese physician who has experience with Kendo and sports medicine. Best realistic advice anyone could probably recommend at this point is for you to take a break from Kendo (as far as receiving hits goes) and shop around for doctors who are familiar with sports and the way that sports-related concussions work while you recover from the previous two concussions. Please be careful.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'd have to say I am surprised as I have been doing kendo for 15 years and don't know anyone that has had a concussion or concussion like symptoms in that time. Repeated concussions can become quite a problem and I'd say you need to treat this seriously, but that doesn't mean you need to give up kendo in all likelyhood. I have had 5 major concussions in my life (none due to kendo) and have no problem with kendo so it is definitely possible to continue and do ok. Perhaps your doctor can give you some suggestions regarding proper protection. You may want to see a sports medicine specialist as they have more knowledge about this type of injury than a G.P. I hope you are able to get things worked out and can continue to have a safe and enjoyable kendo experience.

                Comment


                • #9
                  As was stated above see a doctor asap, that being said we had someone in our club that got them repeatedly to the point they had to stop kendo. Take the symptoms seriously and seek medical treatment and advice. The biggest thing I would say is check your posture, meaning are you looking down when someone hits, the next is, its possible to get a specialized men to help with the cushioning, but some people are just very susceptible to concussions, its rare but your doctor is going to be able to give you the best feed back, after him I'd ask your sensei to keep an eye on you during practice to watch and see if your posture is correct or someone is hitting incorrectly. Whatever the case your first concussion sounded fairly bad, I would keep a close eye on it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My son received a rather nasty concussion as result of a hard men strike. Knocked him out of practice for a few months. Solution was to buy an even better men that was a little large and line the inside with sheet of sorbothane. Goes from the top of the ear to the other side. Bought a 5/32" and 1/8" 12" x 12" sheet online and cut the 1/8" in half. It is sewed in with a cloth covering. He can't hardly feel a men hit now.

                    This kind of thing should not happen but does more than people admit or recognize. I would like to develop a men that has the sorbothane sewed in to the menbuton. Had my bell rung a time or two.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Curtis View Post
                      I would like to develop a men that has the sorbothane sewed in to the menbuton.
                      Koei has offered that for years.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Curtis View Post
                        My son received a rather nasty concussion as result of a hard men strike. Knocked him out of practice for a few months. Solution was to buy an even better men that was a little large and line the inside with sheet of sorbothane. Goes from the top of the ear to the other side. Bought a 5/32" and 1/8" 12" x 12" sheet online and cut the 1/8" in half. It is sewed in with a cloth covering. He can't hardly feel a men hit now.

                        This kind of thing should not happen but does more than people admit or recognize. I would like to develop a men that has the sorbothane sewed in to the menbuton. Had my bell rung a time or two.
                        This is brilliant. I'm ordering the same for my son now. Do you mean you used it in lieu of a men pad, though? Aren't men pads made out of something like sorbothane?

                        (This also brings up the point that practice with kids should add a layer of care because kids are less likely to recognize concussion symptoms for what they are.)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jjcruiser View Post
                          This is brilliant. I'm ordering the same for my son now. Do you mean you used it in lieu of a men pad, though? Aren't men pads made out of something like sorbothane?

                          (This also brings up the point that practice with kids should add a layer of care because kids are less likely to recognize concussion symptoms for what they are.)
                          It is the men pad. Men pads generally are a bit too thick and do not have shock absorbtion of sorbothane.

                          The one Neil refers to only has a bit of sorbothane in the front area of the men. I am well familiar with it. My son's has the entire head padded from ear to ear and front to back.

                          Perhaps the easiest thing would be to make a men pad with sorbothane. I would just prefer to have it sewed in for proper fitting.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Neil Gendzwill View Post
                            Koei has offered that for years.
                            They do? Koie's website doesn't describe anything like that in English that I see and my google-translate isn't finding it either.

                            Can Bogubag get it? The bogubag website just links to Idaho Kendo.

                            Anyway, I wrote Koei directly on the contact and asked whether they make a sorbothane-enhanced men for children. If I get a useful response I'll repost it here. I'm very pleased with my tamashii men for this purpose but I have to get my son his own bogu at some point anyway and that would be too expensive for something he'll grow out of in a few years.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jjcruiser View Post
                              They do? Koie's website doesn't describe anything like that in English that I see and my google-translate isn't finding it either.

                              Can Bogubag get it? The bogubag website just links to Idaho Kendo.

                              Anyway, I wrote Koei directly on the contact and asked whether they make a sorbothane-enhanced men for children. If I get a useful response I'll repost it here. I'm very pleased with my tamashii men for this purpose but I have to get my son his own bogu at some point anyway and that would be too expensive for something he'll grow out of in a few years.
                              The men they offered with sorbothane went about half or more behind the men gane and curved around to the front kind of like a quarter moon just below the eyes. It was intended for the top front half of the men. It did not give any additional protection the side of the head.

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