Playing Sports with Tourette

Jim Eisenreich

By Gavin Kiley

A question I have been asked too many times to count is, how my Tourette’s has impacted my ability to play sports. I’m a junior in high school now and play football and baseball, and I have been playing sports my entire life. They have been a huge part of my life, and I would be lying if I said my tics haven’t presented challenges along with that.

If you have TS or know and care about someone who does and have this question, then you have come to the right place. These are the biggest impacts tics have had on my athletics and some of the ways I have managed to move past them to continue to play sports. The first time I can remember a tic impacting my play was when I had my blinking tic, one of the most common tics among people with TS. I used to blink many times in rapid succession, or blink once and hold my eyes closed for an extended period of time. This would often happen at unfortunate times, like when a pitcher was throwing me a pitch, or when someone was trying to steal the ball in basketball, leading me to be put at a disadvantage. My solution to this was to use a counter (a movement or action more discreet than the tic that prevents the tic from happening) to prevent my eyes from closing in those moments where I needed them to play. Counters are, in my opinion, the best way to deal with tics and if you or your loved one have not tried to implement them yet I would strongly suggest you do so.

The next big impact that my TS had on my athletics was causing muscle tightness. I had several tics that involved straining my neck, back, or other parts of my body which caused me to be very tight and made the quick and agile movements required by sports very difficult. I know that tics like this causing muscle tightness are also relatively common, so my way of dealing with them would be to develop another counter. Then for the muscle tightness I highly suggest epsom salt baths; I’m pretty sure these baths must have some magical properties as you get out of them feeling like you can run, jump, and throw as well as anyone in the world. These two things combined basically eliminated this issue for me, so hopefully they will do the same for you.

Finally, the last impact that my TS has had on my athletics is the one I feel is most important to discuss, the psychological one. The idea that I was playing with an inherent disadvantage that I could not control demoralized me. It made me feel like I was being held back from being as good at the things I loved as I really could be. This problem was without a doubt the hardest one to solve, but ended up being the simplest solution. A change in mentality was all it took. I embraced the fact that I had TS, and the fact that it was going to put me a step below the other kids, and this allowed me to take a step above them. I realized that despite this disadvantage I was still playing the same sport as them at the same level as them, and this allowed me to realize that if I could overcome my tics to play sports then I could overcome them to do anything else as well. This is a lesson that all people with TS need to learn, because they have been able to overcome their tics to do things their whole lives, and that makes them pretty special, and once they realize that things all of the sudden will become much easier than they seemed before. If I can move past tics to play baseball, so can anybody else, and hopefully this advice has made that a little easier.


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