Thursday, October 20, 2011

My concussion

Have any of you noticed the heavy coverage concussions have been getting from the news media lately? It seems like every time I turn around, somebody is reporting on head injuries in the NFL or NHL or youth sports.

Maybe it’s just me. I always have a hard time determining if what seems like a strong presence in the news is actually a strong presence or if it just seems that way because it is a topic that I am invested in.

I don’t believe I’ve ever written in depth about my Really Big Concussion. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned it – the time following that concussion was a pretty significant period and it certainly still factors into my life (mostly how nervous I get about headaches and the paranoia that follows any time I’m knocked in my head during my various sporting endeavors) – but considering how long I have been blogging (7 years as of next month, OMG) it is high time that I give my Really Big Concussion its due.

I was a junior in high school. I had just turned 16. I was playing in a soccer game. My friend Heather’s mom drove me to the game; my parents were in Toronto for the weekend. And I got hit in the head. It wasn’t in a fantastic or dramatic away. I didn’t bash my head against someone else’s. I didn’t collide with the goalpost. I was just standing too close when a girl from the other team drilled the ball. I turned my head to avoid taking the ball right on the nose and that was it. Concussion.

I went out of the game, but it was very briefly. I seem to recall that we didn’t have any substitutes – it was a Saturday afternoon during homecoming season and some of my teammates had missed the game to get beautified before their school’s dance. So I went back into the game.

That’s what you did then – when concussions weren’t the red flag that they are now. You went back into the game because why wouldn’t you? You’re not bleeding. There’s no visible bruising or swelling. And your team is short a player. Of course you’re going to go back into the game.

I have absolutely no idea if we won or if we lost.

I remember being back at the house that night, laying on the couch (Aunt Lynn was staying with me and Meg) and feeling pretty crappy but, I don’t know, not remarkably crappy. I was bitchy and a little out of sorts, but I wasn’t dizzy or vomiting or otherwise unable to function.

I don’t remember telling my parents about getting my bell rung. But it was just a day or two after they had returned from Toronto – I can’t recall, exactly – that my mom took me to my pediatrician. She diagnosed it as a concussion.

During the months following my concussion, I slept exceptional amounts. My alarm clock would go off in the morning and, soon after I got out of bed, I would know if I would be going to school. Some days I would be perfectly fine. And some days – a lot of days – I would tell Mom that I wasn’t going to school and go right back to sleep.

After sleeping the whole night, I would sleep away the whole day. I would get up around the time Meg got home from middle school.

What’s weird – and a testament to how well my parents handled the situation – is that I never felt like I was sick. Obviously, I knew that I didn’t feel well, but I didn’t feel like The Sick Kid. I wasn’t particularly worried. I just knew that some days I just couldn’t do it and I would go back to bed and sleep it away. I felt shitty sometimes but I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t worry.

I missed a ton of school. I would be interested to see how many days I missed, actually, but it definitely added up to at least a few weeks. My teachers each got a note about my condition, apparently. I didn’t know it at the time, but I saw it in my file before I graduated. Along with a note about when I was out of class after my uncle died. Weird.

I saw a neurologist and had an EEG and was prescribed some drugs – I remember being slightly shocked when my mom told me that one was an antipsychotic that was also used in the treatment of headaches.

But I stayed the same.

And my mom made me an appointment for a second opinion – some exceptionally fancy neurologist at UM who couldn’t see me for weeks – and I never went. Eventually, I stopped missing school. Eventually, the headaches went away. Eventually, I felt fine.

Since that time, I’ve had some close calls. I have had those collisions – on the soccer field, on the hockey rink – that have left me a little shaken and a lot scared. I love the sports, I love the activity, but I am genuinely afraid that it could happen again. And now, as an adult, I don’t have the luxury of taking endless days off to sleep away the post-concussion syndrome. It’s scary.

And so are all of the reports on how sports concussions are coming back to haunt the athletes who suffered them years and years ago. I read about all of the problems that former professional and collegiate hockey and football players have and it scares the hell out of me.

Not that there’s anything that can be done. Nothing that fear or doctor’s appointments or healthy doses of paranoia that come with every significant headache can cure.

It’s just something that I’m aware of. Always, always aware of. A piece of my past that may also be a piece of my future. There is no changing that.

5 comments:

Theo said...

Sports are risky. I'm learing that more and more the older I get. I see people injured all the time, but because they aren't "serious" injuries they're easy to brush off. But it's getting harder to do so.

I find your story very interesting. I'm reading a book right now you might be interested in called "Warrior Girls" by Michael Sokolove about girls and women being injured in sports. Right now it is focusing on ACL tears, but I think there is some info on soccer concussions later in the book. Also, I had no idea there were helmets for soccer and was surprised that they weren't ugly.

A said...

Thanks for the recommendation! We own a copy; I’ll have to check it out. Although, I’m already incredibly paranoid about ACL tears (have read a lot about their frequency in girls/women) and I don’t think it will calm my nerves any!

Thisisme said...

HOLY GEEZ!!!

Kari said...

Concussions scare the crap out of me.

Mrs. Architect said...

Holy cow! That IS scary. Maybe its a good thing I sucked at every sport I attempted so any concussions I would have acquired was from falling off the bench.

 
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