Part Two of Brittni's Concussion Story

Concussion Story

September 18, 2015

This is part 2 of former soccer player Brittni's concussion story. Read Part 1 here.

How do you feel about sports and soccer now? Do you think concussions are an accepted part of some sports and that an athlete knows what he/she is getting into when he/she signs up?

Obviously I still love soccer and athletics. I’m a very competitive person, I’ve always loved all sports, whether I was watching them or playing them. I believe that most athletes are aware that in any contact sport, injury is a risk, including concussions. However, what many athletes, especially young athletes, don’t understand is the severity of the consequences that can follow improper recovery.

What lead to the creation of your “My Boggled Brain” blog?

There were two main motivations behind my blog. First off, I needed an outlet to get out all of the things that I was suffering through. Second, I wanted to reach out to this community of people who all seemed to be sharing stories that were similar to mine. I wanted my voice to be heard on an issue that was very close and important to me. While I am an incredibly private person and still trying to wrap my mind around all of this attention I have been getting, I felt that my story needed to be put out there to warn other athletes about the long-term risks of head injuries.

What do you think is currently missing from concussion awareness and education efforts? What was your knowledge of head injuries before you suffered your first concussion?

My first diagnosed concussion was from a hard fall at a track meet and I had absolutely zero knowledge of head injuries. Even though I was briefly knocked unconscious, it was treated like any other minor injury, the scrapes on my knee were bandaged and I was free to go home. It wasn’t until the car ride home when I started asking nonsensical questions that my mom realized something wasn’t right. Even after a hospital visit that night, I was still not diagnosed with a concussion until a full week later when I was still having symptoms and my mom demanded someone figure out what was going on. We realized later on that this was probably not my first concussion, but the first to give me unbearable symptoms. Even as I got older and dealt with multiple more concussions, I still was unaware of the risks of not giving myself an appropriate amount of time to heal. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that an athletic trainer sat down and explicitly explained the risks of head injuries.

Concussion awareness has significantly improved over the last few years.  Parents and coaches seem to finally be realizing the great danger of their athlete receiving a concussion.  However, the athlete group is going to be the most difficult to reach and that is still not being done well enough.  As a recent athlete that put myself at risk every single day, I did not totally grasp the impact it could have and has had on my life.  I think that there needs to be more prevalent first hand accounts of people dealing with this.  We need to let them know that it is not uncommon and it can happen to them.  Especially in high school and college, kids think they’re invincible – I know I did. They need to see people and hear their stories and know and believe that it can happen to them just like it happened to me.

What advice do you have for current players? What about parents of players?

For players, I just want them to listen to their bodies.  You know your body better than anyone.  If you don’t feel quite all there or you got knocked and your head hurts now – sit yourself out.  It truly is just a game. Your brain is irreplaceable.  You can break a bone and wait for it to heal up, you can tear an ACL and replace it, but if you cause too much damage to your brain, you can’t get a new one. If you know you don’t feel healthy enough to play safely, don’t play – no matter what everyone else is telling you.  Suck it up and sit out for a little while to heal; it’s not worth the rest of your life.

For parents, as hard as it may be, I think it’s important to sometimes play the “bad cop” and not allow your child to return to play if they aren’t fully ready. It is crucial that parents of athletes educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of a concussion and the proper protocol for recovering from one. It is important to understand that coaches, trainers, doctors, and parents all need to work together to protect the health and safety of the athlete, not produce a win for the team.

What safety measures would you like to see taken in women’s soccer?

I would like female athletes to have neck strengthening implemented into their training programs, which can help to reduce concussions.  I do not think headers should be taken out of soccer.  I think that they are a central and important skill and aspect in the game.  However, I think that at young ages we need to be making sure we are teaching the proper heading form with softer balls and throws before having kids do true headers.  I also believe that headers are unnecessary in the youth game and should only be trained – not used in a game.  I would like to see them trained in youth soccer, and introduced into games in middle school so that they should have the technique and strength by high school to head properly when the intensity of the game picks up.

How has your experience with concussions affected the way you coach?

My concussion experience has greatly affected the way I coach.  I was always injured as an athlete and never took any of my injuries seriously; they were just annoyances that kept me off the field.  Now I take a no risk approach – especially with concussions. A concussion in my mind is an automatic week out and then dependent on what the trainer sees from there.  However, no athlete of mine with any suspected concussion will ever step foot on the field until they are symptom free and fully cleared to play.

How are you feeling now? What are you up to now, and what’s ahead in the future?

I am still very much in the depths of recovery.  I have started working as a nanny because it allows me to work inside in a cool, non-stressful environment.  I am also coaching college soccer.  Daily, I struggle with headaches, nausea, dizziness, vision problems, and light and noise sensitivity.  I plan on making a trip to Georgia for treatment at the Carrick Brain Institute to hopefully get my life back this winter.

What’s the #BestPractice you’ve adopted since your recovery?

The #BestPractice that I’ve adopted since my recovery is something I’m still not great at doing and that is putting my needs first.  I need to be very selfish in the things I can and cannot do.  It’s a very difficult thing to do – it can make you feel like a bad friend, employee, teammate, family member and overall person.  However, putting the needs of my health above pretty much anything else is the most basic and important part of recovery.

 

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