Dr. Ghorbani Discusses Northwestern’s Uniforms And PTSD

Football’s caused a lot of controversy as of late. Concussions. Bullying. And now this: Streaks of red across white on Northwestern University's Under Armour uniforms for tomorrow’s Michigan game bear striking resemblance to blood splattered across an American flag.
Should we be up in arms? From Op-eds trashing the jerseys to talk shows debating the controversy and Twitter rants calling the designs senseless, offensive, and even unpatriotic, people aren’t happy.
But the jerseys are giving proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project—a non-profit for injured veterans. And when Boston College wore similar suits last year, no one seemed to mind. In fact, some people still don’t. Under Armour released a statement refuting the bloody claims: “The suggestion that these uniforms are depicting streaks of blood is completely false and uninformed.” Others—including veterans—have tweeted their respects for the jerseys.
At least one top psychologist believes that despite the denials, there could be a very real negative effect to the uniforms. Football is supposed to be warfare without weapons, says Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D., a member of the Men's Health advisory board. It has the camaraderie. It has the pride. But college students taking the field in seemingly bloodstained uniforms crosses a line. “It’s a little too real,” Dr. Pollack says. “It reminds us of what happens in a war—blood gets spilled.”
And there’s a big difference between hearing about something like war and seeing it, says Dr. Pollack.
Research confirms that when you show people negative images, they’ll tell you what they see. But if you measure their brain activity and heart rate, you’ll notice heart rate increases, and that images activate deeper parts of your brain where intense feelings are lodged. Negative pictures, then, illicit emotions like pain, horror, sadness, or disgust—even if that’s not what’s being said, Dr. Pollack says.
A study released yesterday by the University of Arizona also found that in just 170 milliseconds, your brain can interpret the meaning of hidden objects on images—without you ever consciously perceiving them.
There’s even more of a difference between seeing something you’re expecting and seeing something you’re not. For example, imagine flipping on the TV for a game and seeing what you think looks like blood on a uniform instead.
“These jerseys make us think about war in a place we didn’t need to think about war,” Dr. Pollack says. “It’s a trigger that could have been avoided.”
It might not bother you at all. Or it might only bother you a little. But if you’re someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), visual reminders of trauma can take you right back to where you were when you witnessed a friend fall in duty, saw a heart-wrenching crime, or crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon this past spring amidst explosions and smoke.
Does this happen every time a person’s surroundings evoke a horrifying memory? No. But studies show that the nervous systems of people with PTSD—and even depression or anxiety—have exaggerated responses to both emotional and physical pain, says Reza Ghorbani, M.D., a pain management specialist in Washington D.C.
So what is being said—that the uniforms are for a good cause—is fine, says Dr. Pollack. But what you feel when you sit back to turn on this game could touch deeper than a lost bet or a losing team—whether you think that’s possible or not, he adds. And maybe that’s reason enough to be angry.


Source from https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19539463/why-care-about-northwesterns-uniforms/

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