On March 15th, 2009, I received my first of several concussions. I’m really not sure of the exact number of concussions I’ve received, but I believe it is in the three to five ranges.
It was the first half of a soccer game against my rival team, the Vulcans, at WRAL Soccer Fields in Raleigh, North Carolina. I played for CASL (Capital Area Soccer League) on a team called the Explorers.
I was going back to my spot on the field, and stood about 10 or so feet away, watching an opponent get ready to cross a ball into the goalie’s box; I could do nothing about the cross. What happened next, would be the start to a new more careful life.
I expected the ball to go over my head and into the goalie box, but it did not. Instead, I took the full force of the kick to the center of my forehead; thank goodness it is the hardest part of the human skull. I did not falter, fall back, or move. I stood in the same place, and just shook my head. I had momentary pain and throbbing, but it went away quickly, and I played the rest of the game.
I drove home by myself after the game, about a 45-minute drive from WRAL Soccer Fields to my old house in Cary, North Carolina. It was not until I got home and sat down in front of the computer that I knew something was wrong.
I texted my friend and told her how I was feeling, that I had a few symptoms that were concussion like – ringing in my ears, dizziness, wooziness, bad balance, a tingling sensation throughout my body, feeling simply out of it, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light and sound, and a splitting headache. I’ve had migraines before, but I knew this was not a migraine. Due to helping out with the Cary High School women’s soccer team as a student athletic trainer, I knew these were symptoms of a concussion. My friend is a student Athletic Trainer like me, as well as an aspiring nurse. She helped me confirm that I most likely had a concussion, or post-concussive syndrome.
The next morning I went to the Rex Healthcare Emergency Room and saw one of the doctors there. The doctor told me that I should be good to go back to school when I felt better and had no more symptoms. He also told me to take Vicodin for the pain. I had stopped taking Vicodin just a week or two before, after the pain from my wisdom teeth surgery had subsided. It turns out, that I should never have gone to the Emergency Room to deal with the concussion; in the long run, the ER made my concussion worse.
I stayed home from school the next two days to rest and recover. When I went back to school after not having any symptoms, I got much worse. I could barely keep my balance, and so I went home early, and went to my doctor at Carolina Family Practice and Sports Medicine the next day.
It turns out that the ER doctors have not gotten the new memo and guidelines for concussions. A person with a concussion or possibility of having one has to take a baseline test for the IMPACT testing, unless he or she already have a baseline test completed. If one has been completed, he or she will have to take the test and have it compared to the baseline. This will let doctors know whether the person has a concussion or not.
If a concussion has occurred, then the concussed person will have to spend about five to ten days in a quite room without lights, sound, and brain stimulating activity, so basically sleeping, eating, and using the restroom.
I spent about five days living like this. I was able to listen to music and watch some TV when I started getting better, but most of the time I fell asleep listening to and watching it. I had a few visits from friends and family, but most of the time I laid in bed sleeping. I could not wait to get back to school and to get out of the house. I hated being cooped up for so long with nothing to do.
After those five days, I went back to the doctor and took another IMPACT test, which showed that I was improving and could begin to go back to school the following Monday. I would also have to start a physical activity plan, which meant I would do some kind of physical activity each day but if I had any symptoms, I had to stop and start over the next day.
Going back to school and getting back in the groove of things was rough. I had missed a lot and I had some tests to make up. I did not do much those next few weeks besides eat, sleep, go to school, do homework, and then play soccer on the weekends. Luckily, I did not miss any soccer games during the time I had my concussion.
Since March, I have had between two to three more concussions. None of them as bad as the first one, but from now on I have to be careful when I hit my head or do physical activity. My balance has not been the same; it’s pretty close to the way it was before my concussion, but is not as good, in my opinion. After you’ve had one concussion, the chances of having another increase with each concussion. Another thing I learned is that if you go back to soon with a concussion and receive another, there is a 50-50 chance of living or dying.