At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Team Sports Four Publicly Out Players (plus One Coach)!

Along with Sweden, the U.S. recently celebrated being the most publicly out team at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. In total, 15 players and two coaches at the World Cup are publicly LGBTQ, and the atmosphere surrounding this has been largely supportive. As exciting as this is, it has thrown harsh light on the number of out players in the Men’s World Cup last year: zero.

United States head coach Jill Ellis and Sweden head coach Pia Sundhage embrace prior to FIFA Women's World Cup soccer action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Friday, June 12, 2015. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Publicly out head coaches  Jill Ellis (U.S.) and Pia Sundhage (Sweden) embrace prior to the start of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Winnipeg

There are a few different reasons for this according to Laura Clise, a board member for the LGBTQ sports advocacy group Athlete Ally. The growing support for gay rights in the country as a whole is certainly a factor, as is the groundwork that’s been laid by star soccer players/LGBTQ advocates like Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach. However, the discrepancy between widespread acceptance of out female soccer players versus male players may also have to do with persistent gender stereotypes and casual sexism in professional sports.

“As a society we tend to associate sports with things that are masculine,” meaning male athletes who identify as gay face an additional pressure to maintain their masculine athlete identity at the same time. Meanwhile, according to Clise, women face “the presumption that there’s this lesbian undertone if you’re really good at sports.”

Women in professional soccer have long faced the consequences of systemic sexism in the industry, from being forced to play on harmful artificial turf instead of grass to depressingly unequal marketing to casual sexist remarks at the highest level of administration.  For gay players in the men’s league too, FIFA’s decision to hold the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar – both widely known for their inhumane treatment of LGBT individuals – shows that the administration has a lot of catching up to do. Still, the outlook is hopeful.

world cup

“Yes, sexism is still alive and we’ve seen that in this WC, but, in my opinion, we have also seen strong, confident athletes standing up for themselves/teams and igniting conversations whether it’s about the turf, sexist remarks, disparate funding,” [former U.S. player Lori Lindsey] said. “LGBT inclusion is only going to benefit from that as we continue to move forward.”

Show Your Longhorns Pride!

JERRY: …and that’s when it happens, the very thing that a hundred thousand people have paid a hundred dollars each to watch.

MIKE and MARCUS’ fans take their football seriously. You can too with a stylish University of Texas Longhorns face paint design!


The Longhorn:
The classic UT football symbol, a Texas Longhorn steer.


eye black










Eye Black:
This black grease paint is sometimes used by athletes to reduce the glare of bright stadium lights. Or just to look fabulous.


whole face

The Whole Face:
Just go for it.


And don’t forget the Longhorns hand symbol. Matthew and Beyonce do it!

MM             Beyonce-sporting-a-Texas-Longhorns-Jersey


FRONTLINE’s Two-Year Study on Concussions and the NFL

FRONTLINE’s 2012-2013 Concussion Watch project attempted to do what no other major news organization had yet done: to track exactly how many NFL players suffered head injuries in a two season span, how long they were kept off the field, and if there were any discrepancies between the number of reported head injuries and the publicly-released Official Injury Report. Here are a few of FRONTLINE’s major takeaway points from the two year study.

NFL Info 1

“One-third of all concussions are left off the NFL Injury Report…Injury reports are the only publicly available data on which players suffer concussions over the course of a year. When roughly one-third of head injuries are left off the list, there can be no check on who the missing names are, how quickly they’re returning to play, or whether the injury marks a repeat concussion for the player”


NFL Info 2

“Half the time, injured players come back without missing a game. In at least 86 instances during 2012, a player returned from his concussion without missing a game. In 2013, it happened 74 times. While there is no standard recovery time from a concussion, guidelines endorsed by the NFL Players Association from the American Academy of Neurology find that athletes are at greatest risk of repeat injury in the first 10 days post-concussion”


NFL Info 3

“Professional football has become more of a passing game than ever before, with passing yards surging by 26 percent over the last decade. This emphasis on throwing the ball has sure enough made the game especially risky for wide receivers and the cornerbacks that defend against them”

For the more on FRONTLINE’s Concussion Watch study, click here to read the full PBS article.

Concussions in Football

Though it doesn’t factor directly into COLOSSAL, head injuries and concussions are a large part of the conversation about American Football. Many football governing bodies, from Pop Warner all the way up to the NFL, are facing lawsuits around injuries to players. This recent New York Times piece describes a suit against the Illinois High School Athletic Association.

With all this in mind, I approached Allyssa Memmini, a research intern at the BU School of Medicine Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center, with some questions about how concussions affect football players. 


RO: How are concussions usually sustained in football players? 

AM: Someone can sustain a concussion in a couple of different ways – whiplash, subconcussive blows/trauma such as seen amongst linemen, and hard hitting blows. It’s interesting because a concussion occurs when there is a rapid acceleration AND rotation of the brain that occurs within the skull – thus causing a “bruise” on the brain, for a lack of better words. This rotation can occur without even getting hit in the head – thus seen in whiplash.

With football, the bulk of concussions seem to come from players who engage in the most impact during practices and competitions such as linemen (offense & defense), running backs, linebackers, and wide receivers. As you can probably tell, some of these guys will obtain concussions through the hard hitting plays, or it may be through subconcussive blows – such as how linemen continually go head to head in every play.

What techniques/equipment have been developed for the sport to try to prevent concussion and head/neck injuries? How effective are these?

There is some literature that seems to believe mouthguards are an effective way to reduce concussions, but the fact of the matter is that the research is inconclusive. Helmets have evolved tremendously over time to better the overall fit, as well as create more protection for the athlete. Some researchers are attempting to put in sensors in the helmets as a way to count the number of hits someone sustains, but again, the data is inconclusive. At what point is a certain number of hits TOO many? It can be quite confusing. When it comes to the musculature of the neck, this too can play an impact on if someone sustains a concussion. Researchers believe that if you have stronger sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboid musculature, that you will be able to prevent some of the acceleration/rotation of the brain if they are fired upon impact. Other than increasing neck musculature, there hasn’t been any type of equipment to prevent neck injuries.

Over time, have we seen concussion statistics get better or worse?

Over time, we have seen concussion statistics increase because people are now more aware as to what the signs/symptoms consist of and how to report them. Others have witnessed their teammates take a hard blow to the head and have been more responsive to contact either their coach, athletic trainer, or team physician if possible. In my opinion, we have certainly seen more willingness from professional sports organizations to finance and enact solutions greatly increase, especially with all of this concussion talk all over ESPN. It’s crazy to think that the concussion debate is so young because people have been knocked around millions of times for hundreds of years – but were always told to shake it off and get back in the game. Now that we have evidence-based research to prove that concussions are real and do impact people for the rest of their lives, the general public has been very outspoken about their support for better concussive care, in addition to bigger sports organizations.

What is the common period of recuperation for a concussion, and what does that look like for a player? For professional athletes, what support structure currently exists for recuperation and does taking time to heal pose a serious career threat?

Recuperation is also pretty wishy-washy because it depends on the individual as well as the severity of the concussion. When someone first comes to an athletic trainer or physician with concussion-like symptoms, we have them fill out a Symptom Score Sheet which is a list of symptoms with a scale next to each one. Common symptoms of a concussion include: headache, nausea, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, insomnia, hypersomina, mood swings, difficulty with balance, dizziness, ringing in the ears, seeing stars, amnesia, slurred speech, depression, difficulty with taste and/or smell, etc. There are many resources to help athletes in terms of a support structure. There are sports psychologist, counselors, and even athletic trainers to help get this patient through their rehabilitation as smoothly as possible to return them to play quickly. Although taking time to heal may pose a threat to an athlete’s career, concussions have been very closely monitored by huge organizations such as the NFL, NBA, NCAA, etc. so they typically will not threaten a player to continue playing should they present concussive symptoms.

The Elegance of Football: Reggie Bush and Barry Sanders

Marcus will “do ballet if it keeps the swelling down,” which is exactly what athletes like former NFL stars Herschel Walker and Lynn Swann, and current Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon did. But above using ballet as a training tool for football, professionals in both fields have pointed to their similarities – their capacity for beauty and grace, and the way they push the human body to its breaking point.

Andrew Hinderaker writes at the beginning of the script, “It’s worth looking at some Barry Sanders/Reggie Bush (circa USC) highlights to capture the nimble/beautiful elements of football.“

Check out some of Reggie Bush and Barry Sanders’ most elegant runs and escapes in these highlight reels:

The NFL also released a great video about ballet and football, which features more of sports history’s most beautiful moves, plus famous sports and dance critics discussing the intersection of the two:

“I’m interested in sports, as I imagine most people are, for the display of the human form divine.”

“I always thought that what Swann did was a higher art form than what Baryshnikov has done, because I know that Swann is not as good a dancer as Baryshnikov, but I would like to see Baryshnikov dance while people are trying to stop him. You know, trying to separate his head from his body. And I would like to see Baryshnikov catch a bullet pass while doing this stuff. I think that some of the things that Swann did with his body, I hope they would be made available to art historians.”

Sit-to-Stand Photos and Videos

Here are a few examples of the different equipment and techniques used for “sit-to-stands”.


gait belt

This is the simplest belt, for minimal assistance and suitable for walking. Often called a “gait belt”


Here’s the prep for the stand, and then walking with this belt.

Here’s a more elaborate version, padded and with handholds.

padded beltgait_belt1


There are also “slings” or “transfer belts” designed less for walking assistance and more for standing and transferring from wheelchairs.

transfer-belt-sling wheelchair standtransfer sling

This is different from the “theraband” that Mike uses for his exercises, which is a brand of resistance band used for physical therapy and general fitness.