Concussions, Gaming, and Mathematics

As some may recall, my oldest son suffered severe symptoms from a concussion he sustained last year after I suggested he try out for wrestling.  It took nearly four months for him to recover fully.  Everything seemed fine in the months following until near the end of water polo season this past fall when symptoms suddenly reappeared.  No parent can keep up their composure when their child starts re-exhibiting post-concussion syndrome (PCS) symptoms, at least not indefinitely.

Fortunately, I noticed something amiss in his behavior and kept a closer watch on him allowing me to act decisively a little later when he took a turn for the worse.  Thankfully, through medical intervention, rest, and time, he is back to his normal self playing winter water polo.  In fact, he travelled with his team to a tournament before Christmas.  Capping off the saga, today we made our last visit with his pediatric neurologist; hopefully, the last ever.

As friends and family are familiar with my son’s situation, one recently sent me a link to a TED talk titled “The game that can give you 10 extra years of life” by Jane McGonigal in which she described herself as “bedridden and suicidal following a severe concussion.”  This caught my attention as it mirrored aspects of my son’s symptoms.

Fortunately, Jane harnessed her “inner gamer” transforming her dire situation into a springboard for positive growth.  After benefitting first hand from her self-conceived “game,” a positive mindset approach to improving one’s health, she developed it formally into the game: “SuperBetter,” described more fully below in this excerpt from its site.

SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers and backed by science to help build personal resilience: the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenges. Resilience has a powerful effect on health — by boosting physical and emotional well-being. Resilience also helps you achieve your life goals — by strengthening your social support and increasing your stamina, willpower and focus. Every aspect of the game is designed to harness the power of positive emotions and social connection for live, feel, and act better.

In her TED talk, she claims that audience members will extend their lives by seven and a half minutes simply listening to her and following her as she guides them through some of the practices embodied in SuperBetter.  Most of the audience members at the time appeared to view her claim with suspicion, and as I did while watching the video online.  However, at the end of her talk she walked everyone through the mathematics underpinning her claim as follows.


Whether the benefit one gains when following SuperBetter is anywhere close to her claim, I do not know.  The site does state the following.

SuperBetter was created with guidance from doctors, psychologists, scientists, and medical researchers. (Our advisors and collaborators include MDs and PhDs at Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, and Ohio State University Medical Research Center.)

It sounds appealing enough to me.  My men’s group may even make a foray into SuperBetter.  If we do, I’ll share my experiences with it!

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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