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Below is re-post of my guest post at healthtopics.ca/blog.

  • How many men were following Michael Jordan, before twitter was ever invented, and living actively like the Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It!”? Probably millions.
  • How many men get regularly checked or decide, on their own, to schedule an annual doctor visit? Probably not even close to a million.
  • Why, you ask? Could it be because men are too “macho” for a preventive screening or too “tough” to let a “small flesh wound” be treated? Perhaps.
  • Or is it because seeking help or accepting injury seems to make a man look “weak”? Maybe.

Either way, the blame must lie with each man. Though the blame can be passed on to everyone around him and to the environment in which he lives, let’s stay focused on how the sports and media culture further propagates this masculinity crisis in young and old men. The attitude and beliefs of being an inferior man, by accepting a sports injury during an “important” match, are instilled to young men as they grow up, especially by sports heroes.

For decades, sportscasters and the media exploited the story line of “injured athlete carrying team to victory” in order to create drama and tension for the audience and fans. The direct outcome of this effect creates remarkable and legendary moments. More importantly, sports heroes are put on a higher pedestal in the eyes of many youth. Typically, the youth, especially young men, only understand what they see from TV. For example, Michael Jordan played a championship game in 1997 with feverish symptoms and what seems to be a stomach flu. Young men all around the world (including myself) were in awe and bewilderment on how such a man was able to play under such physical duress while lifting his team to victory.  As seen in the image below (credit to ESPN), he needed help from his teammates to leave the court.

What’s the message to young men watching this match? Be like Mike and play through anything to win.  What is it that young men everywhere didn’t notice? Mike, like most serious athletes, trains rigorously in the off-season and has practiced for years. In addition, he is conditioned and monitored by professional health trainers who control almost all activities conducted by him.  From daily food intake to gym time, athletes build their phenomenal physique by proper supervision and, of course, self-will. To be like Mike does not mean to play when you are hurt or to risk injuring yourself further, but to practice and train yourself to be better and healthy.

One way to be better and healthy is to have yearly doctor checkups. You don’t think Mike gets a physical examination yearly? It’s a simple phenomenon that can prevent serious damages, yet most men still can’t get with the program. Why do you think NBA teams and other professional sports teams made physicals or doctor check-ups a standard protocol before playing?

In short, we as a society, and as a culture, propagate this superior identity of masculinity – the essence of being a man.  From the time men are little boys, we are expected to shake off bruises or “walk it off” as commonly heard in youth baseball leagues. Growing up, men are supposed to be crafty like Ferris Bueller or handle their liquor as seen in Animal House.  And when men have aged, they are supposed to be like Rocky or the Terminator.  Men are supposed to be able to withstand inhumane pain and never flinch at anything. Come on world, really? This is what a man is supposed to be? No wonder women, in the majority of countries around the world, live longer than men.  We are structured to die young.