The Underestimated Concussion

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | Concussions can be caused by collisions and other injuries that happen while playing various sports.

Photo by Carolyn Brown ’16 | Concussions can be caused by collisions and other injuries that happen while playing various sports.

Cameo Tietje ’18
Assistant Sports Editor

Concussions are caused by your brain colliding with your skull, which can occur if you collide with someone, fall, get hit in the head, etc. In the U.S., football accounts for majority of concussions for males, while soccer accounts for majority of concussions for females. During my field hockey preseason this year, I sustained a concussion in the first session of the first day of practice. I am the goalkeeper at Smith College, and I was struck in the head twice during practice. The first blow was from a ball driven to my head from less than a foot away. Unfortunately, I dove to save the shot and my head landed directly in line with the ball. It happened so fast my teammate was unable to stop her momentum and drove the ball into my helmet. The second time, I dove right and narrowly hit the ball with my stick, just hard enough for the offender to miss it. The full force of her, which was supposed to be transferred into the ball, hit me square on the side of the head where I was previously struck. Although I wore a helmet, it was not enough to protect me from the force of both blows, separated by only a few minutes.

Concussions are not easy to detect because a person cannot physically see the injury. Symptoms can last anywhere from hours to months depending on the severity of the concussion. I had a subtle headache after the first session and in the second session. Some symptoms are easy to define, such as a headache, the feeling of pressure in your head, trouble sleeping and nausea. Other symptoms, if the victim has never experienced them before, they are vague and difficult to define, like feeling slowed down, being sensitive to light and/or noise, not being able to concentrate, not thinking clearly and balance problems. The number of symptoms there are and their severity depend on how serious the concussion is. I experienced balance problems, inability to concentrate, feeling slowed down, headaches and pressure in my head. Although I only had a headache, when I attempted to play in the next session my symptoms quickly worsened. Concussion symptoms can increase due to stress, like too much movement, which occurred when I was warming up for practice.

Typically, concussions get worse before they get better, changing anywhere from hours after to days later. At Smith, there is a minimum of five days of recovery after your first symptom-free day. During those five days, I was given a workout regime starting with minimal exertion of about 20 percent of my maximum heart rate. Each morning I had to fill out a symptoms reports form. The best way to mitigate the symptoms is to avoid light, screen time, loud music, engaging the brain, physical exertion, and putting yourself in danger of being struck in the head. Luckily, my concussion was diagnosed as mild, and I was back to full contact play in two weeks.

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