Searching for a topic on which to blog, I happened upon a headline in the paper and found ‘Teacher put sticky tape over children’s mouths’. Apparently, they were talking and laughing during classes so she taped them up to keep them quiet. I make no comment on that event; she obviously shouldn’t have done it. On the other hand, I wonder just how meek and mild those poor wee cherubs were as they stepped out of paradise, quietly folded away their wings and found themselves assaulted by an over-decibelled human.
Someone who has difficulty tolerating what’s laughingly known as ‘normal’ environmental sound is said to be suffering from hyperacusis but I want to draw attention to another condition in which the sufferer demonstrates an equivalently enhanced level of sensitivity to external stimuli and for which there is not yet a convenient label. The symptoms manifest themselves most frequently on the football pitch (or, for those for whom ‘football’ means a game in which the ball is rarely struck with the foot, the soccer field).
For some insufficiently researched reason, many footballers respond to certain stimuli in a way which suggests they have remarkably low pain thresholds. Not only that, but the acute pain never manifests itself at the point where the trauma occurs but, instead, migrates to a different locus entirely. All the evidence suggests that, in these individuals, the epidermal neural networks (no, of course I don’t know whether there is such a thing but it says what I want it to say), are constructed in a way that channels the slightest sensation of touch by an opponent on any anatomical surface straight to their face and head where it builds from a feather light brush by a fingertip to a raging agony equivalent to that which might result from having the skin peeled from their gums inch by inch by a jagged, scalding razor blade pulled by teams of fire ants as hornets queue up to inject toxins into the mucus membranes of their nasal passages.
Unfeeling supporters deride them for such antics and yet these are grown men transformed in an instant by their affliction into screaming infants. Yes, their weekly wages may be more than enough to pay for an entire team of consultants in every known medical discipline to sit in a hut on their estate waiting to be called to administer balm, but that is of little comfort if they’re constantly aware that, each time they step onto that field, their face and head may be subjected to cataclysmic agonies if a butterfly’s wing flaps too close to their Achilles tendon or some other part of their anatomy is ravaged by some wayward silk tassel.
Once this condition has been identified properly, given the requisite label and attracted the necessary research funding, these sufferers can be hospitalised and removed permanently from the public gaze. Thereafter, sports psychiatrists can focus on that other phenomenon, in which players suffer unaccountable delusions that, rather than being in a penalty area, they suddenly find themselves at the edge of a swimming pool and, in a flailing of limbs and shrieks of agony, feel the need to hurl themselves headlong into the water.
Modern sports medicine still has a long way to go.