Caitlin Ward

Lacrosse player touches on 'new normal' versus 'old self,' connection between emotional/physical, her 'energy bank,' and importance of mindfulness 

Nancy Hagood

College sailor-turned-medical school student shares the crucial lessons and wise words she has learned from her recovery journey, from dealing with concussions in college to medical school

Sophie Paci

Wakeboarding/soccer/skiing injuries, shares her emotional journey through recovery as well as a connection to artwork post-injury

Cathy Bester

Baseball injury, shares her 'darkest days,' her experience with different treatment approaches, and the lessons she has learned through the process

Liz Mullarney

College sailor discusses her journey through a college concussion and another in the working world - touches on the significance of positivity & the people around her, the hurdles she has faced, and why awareness is so important  

Scarlett Zhu

Touches on the 'Old Me' versus 'New Me,' 'Old Tough' versus the 'New Tough,' discusses her rock bottom, and in the end, her lessons of forgiveness, resilience, and acceptance. Also shares her recovery tips

Katia Kiefaber

Horseback riding; shares with us the important moment of her mental shift, her journey through a non-linear recovery, and the significance of practicing gratitude 

David Anderson

Savant syndrome post-injury; his journey turning to art during recovery and the major impact it has had on his artwork/recovery journey

Claire Lapat

Avid soccer player; shares her experiences struggling with concussions all throughout high school and beyond, the pain of losing her soccer career, and how she has dealt with it all through spreading awareness and helping others like herself

Billy Alvino

Baseball player shares his important 'tool kit' when it comes to concussion recovery - discussing the different treatment options he has experienced, and his own recovery tips

Annie Cook

Lacrosse player shares her journey struggling with school/memory issues, and how she overcame the hurdles and graduated. Touches on the importance of practicing gratitude, and asking for help when you need it

Molly Hryciw

College lacrosse player discusses the pressure of playing through injury, the bravery needed to admit symptoms and stop playing, the exhaustion that accompanies recovery, and having to change paths in life

Baylee Trani

Hockey player shares her experience with concussions all throughout youth hockey, how she dealt with hanging up her hockey career early on to take care of her health, how she managed to still be part of the team without playing 

Jared Schwartz

Baseball player opens up about his difficult concussion journey starting from age 12 - the lack of understanding from his peers, the isolation, depression. Shares how he turned to drumming as an escape, newfound talents, the different treatment routes, and his aspirations to be a neurosurgeon 

Jack Yates

Rugby player discusses how he coped with the injury, finding the power of exercise and the power of therapy - talking to someone about his journey. He shares his discovery of his 'new self,' his mistakes and final breakthroughs/realizations

Hillary Goldstein

Swimmer shares her journey of 6 concussions, her struggle throughout schooling, and the significant impact her support network had - via coaches and teachers - that inevitably inspired her to teach herself


When I got hit with a lacrosse ball in the head ten years ago, my broken goggles and bleeding, crooked nose proved to be unmistakable evidence of the injury. My concussion, however, initially went undiagnosed. Two hazy weeks later, stitched up and bruised, I found my pain intensifying and my body unable to push through this injury as it had in times before. A recovery weekend at home swelled slowly into Post-Concussion Syndrome for seven years.If you have suffered from Post-Concussion Syndrome, you may have experienced similar transitions in your own life:

The reality of redefining your “new normal” or, the terminology I prefer, your “second self”, requiring you to adjust your management of stress, pain, relationships, and the grief of your lost self.

Doctors, friends, coaches, colleagues, and family who simplified your symptoms to their own terms- or chose to ignore them altogether- forcing you to repeatedly advocate for yourself.

The onset of anxiety and/or depression as you navigated pain, relationships, redefinitions, and finding success in our overstimulating world.

Additionally, you likely held onto some baggage. Maybe you started a list of insensitive comments made by apathetic doctors. You may have spent time reflecting on the ways your coaches, employer, or doctor could have handled your initial injury differently. Perhaps you found yourself lost in the spiraling game of “what if,” obsessing over the stories that you could have told differently.

My hope for you is that over time, you have worked to fill some of these furrows with habits that keep you moving forward. For me, acknowledging that my physical symptoms were connected to my emotional ones was an important first step. My second step involved naming my symptoms, and working to tie them to specific triggers. This often left me feeling frustrated as I grappled with how to manage them all- Where did I go wrong during the day? What could I have done differently?

It took time before I was able to step back and analyze these questions from a different perspective. I had identified several triggers that would intensify my near-constant headaches and fatigue: exercise, screens, unfiltered lights, driving, excessive noise, and, unfortunately, bookstores. I also started to recognize how my body would react when I cut my essentials- sleep, food, rest and water- short.

In an effort to separate just a bit of the emotion from my day to day routine and to take ownership of those aspects I could control, I began to conceptualize my needs in the form of an energy bank. For my bank to be full, I identified my physical needs: sleep for 9-10 hours at night, eat five times, schedule frequent breaks when in an overstimulating environment, take 1-3 naps during the day, use tools to limit light sensitivity, and drink water faithfully.

I also started to care more intentionally for my emotional health. I built a mindfulness practice into my routine and prioritized one thing that would bring me joy every day. I started to write, a method I used to release some of the pain and stress from my body. When I woke up in the morning, headache or not, a post-it on my bathroom mirror would remind me to say three things out loud that I was grateful for. I adopted a framework for when my emotions started to turn dark. I would allow myself three days to feel an emotion: to sit in it, steep in it, mourn for it. If the three days did not allow for enough processing to pull myself positively away from that emotional state, I made a pact to myself to ask for help.

By meeting my physical and emotional concussed needs, my energy bank would be full. When fighting against an invisible injury with no apparent timeline for recovery, the conceptualization of my symptoms in the form of this energy bank allowed me to take ownership of those parts of myself that I could control. I found myself being kinder and less judgmental of (what I viewed to be) my broken self.I began using this as a tool to stretch and test myself. With a full energy bank, I started to better understand where my threshold for experiencing symptoms stood. Over time, as my threshold increased, I was able to incrementally work towards re-incorporating those things that would have previously induced symptoms.

Today, I consider myself to be whole and fully-functioning, but that does not mean my life looks the same as it did before my injury. Instead, my second-self is more empathetic, compassionate, patient, grateful and aware of the connection between mind, body and spirit. After all, it is through pain that we build resilience. 


My first concussion came during a soccer game my junior year of high school. I went up for a header at the same time as a competing player, and our heads collided. She collapsed on the field in tears. Wimp, I thought to myself and stayed in for the rest of game. I felt a twinge of guilt for my heartless thoughts when I still had a headache and nausea the next day, but my symptoms resolved 48 hours later, and I never thought about it again, until…

Fast forward four years. It was the fall of my senior year at Georgetown University. I was a returning All American, Team Captain of the Varsity Sailing Team, and was planning to apply to medical school after college graduation. Through a series of unfortunate events, I had four concussions in four months, resulting in 7 months of post-concussion syndrome. For 7 months, I was told to do nothing but rest. One doctor even said, “try not to use your senses.” I was forced to withdraw from both school and sports for the remainder of the year. While my friends and classmates were enjoying the festivities of college and graduation, I was at home, trying not to go insane. I found playing the piano, cooking, and yoga to be therapeutic and help pass the time, but the most important thing I did was something I created called a “Love List.” I was so tired of thinking about myself and how I felt, so every day I made a list of people in my life who could use a little extra love – maybe a neighbor, or a relative, or a friend. Then I would write them a letter, or make them a meal, or simply go visit them. 

Gradually, my symptoms resolved, and I returned to my normal self. I returned to Georgetown for a second chance at my senior year. All of my friends had graduated, but I found a community of new friends through my younger teammates and members of other sports teams who had also redshirted due to various injuries. I returned to sailing, but I had high standards for myself and was frustrated at first that I was not performing as well as I had prior to my concussions. My coach was honest with me and told me that yes, my competitors had been training for the last year, and I was rusty, but he never stopped encouraging me, and told me to be patient and keeping working hard, and I could be just as strong as I was before. He was right. By the end of the season, I was mentally and physically the strongest I had ever been, and I sailed the best National Championship of my college career.

After graduating college, I retired from full-time competitive sports and started medical school.I had returned to life as normal, and unless I told you my story, you would never know that I had a history of post-concussion syndrome. In September of my fourth and final year of medical school, almost 5 years to the day since my last concussion, the unthinkable happened.I was hit in the head in a freak accident while on a medical mission trip in Haiti. I brushed it off at first, thinking it was just one hit, and maybe the last time had only been a problem because it was 4 concussions in a row. Little did I know, the concussion snowball effect was about to hit me like a freight train. By the time I returned to the US a week later, I was in bad shape. I minimized my symptoms to others, hoping that if I refused to acknowledge my symptoms, they would just go away, and I would wake up from this nightmare. But the more I tried to push through, the worse my symptoms became, and once again, I had no choice but to step away from the things I loved to do and focus on getting well. For the second time in my life, I watched all of my friends and classmates graduate without me, and I was left with 9 months of post-concussion syndrome. Fortunately, there are a lot of new treatments for post-concussion syndrome, so instead of being told not to use my senses, I was actively engaged in vision, vestibular, and physical therapy for several months, which played a tremendous role in my recovery. I returned to medical school gradually and am now a full-time student with no residual concussion symptoms. Lord willing, I will graduate this spring and start a combined residency program in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.

I would not wish post-concussion syndrome on my worst enemy, but I also know that the yearsI have spent recovering from concussions have shaped me in ways that few other experiences could. To anyone facing post-concussion syndrome, here are a few things to remember:

- Whatever you are feeling right now is not permanent. The mind and the body are incredibly resilient and are capable of much more than we give them credit for.

- A lot of people will doubt you. Don’t listen to them. Find people who believe in you(even if it’s just one or two people), and keep them close.

- You need others to believe in you, but you also have to believe in yourself!! A turning point for me was when I read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. If reading is hard, I recommend the audiobook. I have done both at various stages of my recovery.

- Find something that gives you purpose and hold onto that. For me, every day I asked myself two questions – Did I learn something today? and Did I help someone today? I have found this to be a good practice whether in a recovery period or not. It’s not about me, and I need to remind myself of that every day.

- Stay connected. Stay connected to others. Stay connected to yourself and the things you have always loved to do. And stay connected to a story that is bigger than you – a story that moves you from selfishness and control to trust and generosity.

- The time that I spent recovering from concussions was a unique time in my life. I had more free time than I’ve ever had, which could lead to boredom and desperation, or to actually being present with others. I love this quote from Henri Nouwen. Living with post-concussion syndrome is probably the closest I’ve ever come to living this way, and sometimes I lament not being able to live this way more.
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

- Never give up, and never lose hope.


I had been dealing with post-concussion syndrome for a year and a half when I got my fourth concussion from a wakeboarding accident. Now let’s rewind seven years. My first two concussions occured from soccer games in 2010 and the third from a skiing accident in 2016, my last semester of college. During that semester and my first year working as a teacher post-grad, I tried to be “tough” and not complain about my persistent symptoms. Besides a few weeks of neck physical therapy, I did not receive adequate medical attention. 

 My fourth concussion in August 2017 changed everything. This time, I sought proper medical care immediately and, after the first few weeks of treatment, reluctantly made the decision to take a year of medical leave from my job to focus on full-time recovery. I found the courage to prioritize my health and make up for all the days I pushed through and thought I was being “tough.” I made a pledge to be New Tough: to listen to my symptoms, to give myself the time and space to heal, and to commit to a full recovery. 

In the first eight weeks of recovery, my activities were extremely limited because of my dizziness, fatigue, and migraines. During this time, I discovered abstract painting to be very therapeutic. Getting lost in blending the colors and creating shapes distracted me from my symptoms and helped me calm down when my emotions felt overwhelming. 

Some of the hardest work I have done this year has been confronting my post-concussion depression, which I think I started experiencing after my third concussion in college. Letting go of my resistance to the idea of being depressed and seeking treatment has been a big part of my overall healing process. I learned that depression is common in post-concussion syndrome and I became more comfortable talking with my friends and family about my emotional journey of the past few years.

Accepting that recovery is a non-linear path with an unknown timeline has been a huge mental hurdle for me. Overcoming this hurdle allows me to live in the present and take things one day at a time. I have found a number of silver linings during this difficult year, including making new friends, spending more time with family, and learning about mindfulness meditation. 

My pledge to be New Tough has strengthened my physical and mental health, and I feel more grounded as a person. The resilience I have developed helps me continue to move forward on my recovery path. 


My life changed in a way I was never prepared for on July 18, 2017. That's how I remember things now - before the accident and after, divided by that date. Pre July 2017, life was pretty great. I grew up playing competitive baseball and hockey, outgoing, loved to travel, fantastic job, full of confidence, and a wonderful sleeper, oh how I used to love to sleep! A life full of simple pleasures, suddenly stripped away from me at a fateful ball game.

As an adult, looking for a fun way to stay in shape, I joined a coed baseball league. Tuesday nights, beer and wing type league, no helmets required. Looking back I see how unbelievably stupid we all were to play every week, without helmets. Would I ride in a car without a seatbelt? No way. Step on the ice to play a hockey game without equipment? Absolutely not. And yet somehow, the idea of playing baseball with nothing more than a ball cap, seemed totally ok. The irony? I'm a Fire Inspector for Toronto Fire Services. My entire career is dedicate to Prevention.

I was up to bat and landed safely on first base. As the next batter belted the ball out to centerfield, I ran to 2nd base, but the pop fly was caught and so I trotted back to 1 st . Seemed like a harmless play, except the guy at center field thought he could get me out, so he drilled the ball and hit me in the back of the head, the brainstem actually. I fell to the ground and felt excruciating pain in my head that radiated behind my right ear to the nape of my skull. Yes, it's possible to see stars like in the cartoons. I didn't lose consciousness, but I remember thinking this is bad, this is going to be really bad.

In hindsight, I ended up doing everything wrong. I sat out an inning with an Ice pack, and then went back into the game. My head was spinning, I was having trouble focusing, but still I played on. The next morning, I awoke with a headache, but took some Tylenol and thought I would be ok. Once at work, and logged into my computer, the first wave of nausea hit. I couldn't stare at my screen for any length of time. I can't tell you what the fire sirens and flashing lights at my firehall felt like. I decided to go to a walk-in medical clinic to seek some advice. I was told I most likely had a concussion and to take it easy for a few days. Instead I continued to go to work, my half hour drive to the fire hall had me arriving feeling like my head was going to explode. Each day of work was worse than the previous. Somehow, I managed to last another 2 weeks, stumbling into work, feeling sick and like I couldn't form a sentence or a thought without a massive effort. I was driving around with bags in my car for the nausea, it was so bad. On week 2 of feeling like this, I finally drove myself to the ER and could barely say my name and date of birth to the registration nurse. It felt like my brain was underwater. I couldn't even hold my head up. Little did I know, the living nightmare that awaited.

I underwent a CT scan and was told there was no apparent damage, no swelling or bleeding in the brain. I was told to stay in a dark room for 2 weeks, or until I felt better. No devices, no activity, basically told to do absolutely nothing until my symptoms subsided - except my symptoms didn’t subside, they continued to get worse each day. Every second of everyday felt like I had just got off of a Merry Go Round that had rotated too quickly. The result? I stayed in the room (the darkest bedroom in my house with blue walls and blue curtains)…for months. I couldn't hardly eat, sleep, drive my car, got to work, watch TV, read a book, go for a walk, the list goes on. Everything I did made me feel extremely nauseous. Anxiety and fear began to creep into the corners of my mind and filled my brain the way smoke seeps through a crack. Depression set in as the summer ended and the seasons changed to fall, and then winter. My own family Doctor turned his back on me, making comments like "don't become an Ambulance Chaser with this concussion," trying to convince me that Post-Concussion Syndrome was a fad, and didn't exist. My Doctor in his limited perspective of head injuries believed concussions only lasted a couple of weeks and that I should be better. He actually thought my dizziness, brain fog and headaches were from sinuses?? I felt so abandoned, and had no direction. I had to find my own way and that’s hard to do when your brain feels like it's stuck in quick sand.

On my darkest days, it felt like LIFE was on a protected beach and I was floating out to sea, caught in waves of fear and uncertainty. I felt like I was screaming in a soundproof room, life just kept going by and I just stayed stuck. My rock bottom was when I tried to accompany my husband a few months after the injury to get groceries. I was a wreck, my nerves were shot, everything in the store made me dizzy and sick. My husband asked me in the produce section what I wanted for dinner and I couldn't find the words to answer him. I started tocry and couldn't stop… It was such a damn simple task for everyone else to be in a grocery store and yet it felt like I had climbed a mountain just to be there, and I realized how far I still had to go. I wanted to scream "stop staring at me, I have a head injury and everything is hard for me!! I actually think I had a dozen or so "rock bottoms" - head injuries are like that, they have a way of making you feel you are at your absolute worst, all of the time.

I remember thinking, I have 2 choices. I can submit to this injury and lose my mind, or I can fight for my old life. Luckily my sister in law, a chiropractor was fundamental in getting me connected with the services I needed, and most importantly, believed all of my symptoms. My family was also an incredible network of strength and support throughout my healing. I could not have done as well as I have, without them. My family was my safety net, which is pretty important when you feel like you're falling through a trap door every single day as you fail to see the light ahead in your recovery. What if I couldn’t get better? Did I even have the ability to heal from this?Would I ever travel again, or be able to sleep and not worry? How could I drive again, go back to work, take part in family events, go a day without crying…1000+ thoughts like this circled my head like vultures all day, every day.

Chiropractic, Craniosacral therapy, Acupuncture, Cognitive Behaviour therapy, SpeechPathology, Insomnia therapy, Vestibular therapy, and Massage, were all a part of my road to recovery. Not to mention monthly trips to an incredible Head Injury Clinic located within a majorToronto Hospital. It was these monthly trips to the head injury clinic that I learned how real my concussion was and that if you call it what it is, a Traumatic Brain Injury, people around you suddenly take your injury more seriously, well some do. There are still those that think you can just shake a concussion off and move on, like my family doctor lead me to believe. Thank God there are those that know better and don't need to see an injury to know it exists.

Fast forward to November 2019. I was doing relatively well, sleeping better, back to regular duties and shifts at the fire hall, traveling and doing the things I loved again. Well mostly, I was cautioned no more hockey or baseball, as another hit could be catastrophic and at 43, I was fine with no more contact sports. Life was different, but then, I was different. I knew I would never be the same person before the baseball injury, and still had daily struggles, but it was leaps and bounds better than in 2017. November 2019, my husband and I were taking my parents to Niagara Falls to celebrate my mom's 73 bday. On a sunny Friday afternoon at 2pm, 5 min into our drive, we were hit by a drunk driver. The driver had beer bottles in the front seat, and blew 3x over the legal limit. My mom and I were taken by ambulance to the ER. My mom had fractured ribs and I had hit my head off of the passenger side window and had another concussion. Our Ford 150 truck was written off from the impact. In the back of the ambulance, it was surreal. UNBELIEVABLE, that I had hit my head again 2 years later, and I was still in fact recovering from the first hit. The fear and anxiety started to bubble up immediately as I thought about how my recovery would go. Where would I find the strength to get through this injury…again?

Amazingly, you dig down and find that you have more fight in you that you ever gave yourself credit for. My brother's words that used to keep me fighting during my first head injury re- surfaced: "If you're going through hell, keep going". How true, don't stop and stay stuck, get to the other side! This 2nd injury, I feel like I did everything right and learned from the benefit of the experience of the first TBI. I stayed home from work, I used the tools from my Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to keep my emotions in check. I leaned on others for support and asked for help when I needed it. I let my brain rest, but not go completely dormant. I did gentle stretching and gradually reintroduced activities. This 2nd injury was nothing like my first, and after 2 months, I was feeling much better. 

This is what I've learned from TBI:
- You are so much stronger and braver than you ever thought possible.
- You will get tired of telling people you are injured, and eventually people will start to forget and assume you are fine because you look fine. Keep reminding them, you have to be your own advocate.
- Staying cooped up in a dark room for months, did more harm than good for me. My brain became sloppy and sensitive. Exposing it to sounds and lights was hard, but in moderation, it adjusted and became easier over time.
- Fight for the old you and your old life. Never give up.
- You will be surprised which of your friends stand by you, and which ones move on.
- Set goals for when you are better and visualize yourself achieving them.

Below is a list of personal goals I've accomplished since my 2 head injuries, in no particular order. They’re important because this list was made during my darkest days, and gave me hope and motivation to keep moving forward.
- Experienced a helicopter ride for the first time
- Took a gondola ride in Venice with my family
- Tolerated the noise levels and crowds at a Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Game
- Returned to my normal work duties and shifts
- Learned to play the Violin
- Cruised the Greek islands
- Watched a Maui Sunset 

Am I completely healed and on my merry way? Hell no, but I'm closer every day and that's what matters. There are still tough days and struggles. Sleep evades me on many nights and makes for a horrible next day. My ability to concentrate and focus has been severely reduced, and my memory is poor, terrible actually. These residual side effects often put me in a frequent holding pattern of confusion and brain fog. I have a constant fear of encountering another head injury which causes me anxiety, and I notice, as do others that I have mood swings which are difficult to control.

Every day I'm reminded of my head injuries to some degree. Whether its accidentally locking my husband out of the house because I forget he's outside cutting the grass… or finding cat treats in the fridge and milk in the cupboard, because I mixed the 2 things up. I can no longer multi task or get ready fast. I used to have a wonderful vocabulary and a knack for telling a funny story, but words escape me now, as do entire train of thoughts. It's ok though, because I'm still living a great life, albeit altered. My head injury broke me down to my core, but I’m no longer broken. My baseball injury was unequivocally the worst time of my life, but as they say: "The only reason to look back, is to see how far you've come". 


When people ask me how my recovery has been going, I usually give them the usual, “I’m doing better every day – making progress slowly but steadily!” But sometimes I get sick of giving the overly positive, truth-omitting answer. Sometimes I just wish someone would call me on my B.S. and ask me how I really am. It’s rare that people ask me what it really feels like to be concussed each day - but if they did, this is what I would tell them.   

When I close my eyes, an orchestra of unnerving symptoms awaits. I tell my doctor, I can HEAR my symptoms – blood pounding in my ears, a pulsating sensation that feels like my brain is shaking, the world rocking from side to side, making it hard to focus and see straight. I dream about the day when I close my eyes, and all that’s there is…me. And peace. And quiet. This is just the beginning of my recovery bucket list. I want to go ice skating. I want to go to the movies with my boyfriend like normal couples do. I want to go for a 5-mile run and feel great about it. I want to feel productive. I want to not have to think about every activity I sign up for, and how much it might hurt in a few hours. I want to listen to a song, watch one TV show, hang out with my friends at a bar, be a normal 24-year-old. 

Now that I’ve written those thoughts down here, however, I have to let them go. I can’t dwell on them because that is not the way I am going to get better. Positivity and believing in my recovery is the way I will get better. Following my doctor’s strict return-to-activities plan is the way I will get better. Spending quality time with my family and friends, sans technology, is the way I will get better. I’ve never been more appreciative of how amazing the people in my life really are – they continue to make me laugh, keep me company, help me see the bright side of things, even when I can’t see it myself. My mom loves to say, “are you done sitting on the pity pot yet? Because we have things to do.” She reminds me of how much worse it could be, how lucky I am, really, to have realized so young that technology and work and all these other things are important but NOT the key to happiness. Spending time with the people around me, playing board games, audiobooks, drawing, listening to the world around me…these things are so underrated in today’s world. It’s how I’ve managed to stay both happy and sane during this process. 

One of the biggest hurdles of this injury that I struggle with is the lack of validation from the outside world of just how real it is. This injury is invisible. I don’t have a cast on my leg that people could look at and know that my injury is both real and ongoing. When some people look at me and think, “why can’t she just push through some headaches throughout the day,” or when people joke that I must be faking it, it hurts me more than you can imagine. At a time in my life when I feel like I’m fighting the hardest battle I’ve ever faced, and using all of my energy to stay positive and appear normal, people make my fight nothing. 

I want to raise awareness for this injury so that people do not make the same mistakes that I did when taking care of their concussion. After my first one that I got from college sailing, I was not about to let some ‘little headache’ keep me from competing in our championships the next weekend. I consistently lied to the trainers saying I felt fine, thinking my symptoms would go away in a few days anyway. The joke was on me, however, as I never stepped in a sailboat again for the rest of my college career. I had no idea at the time just how severe and difficult a journey I was facing to recovery - only wanting to prove to my teammates (and myself) how “tough” I could be. I always wonder if I could’ve saved myself from this long process if only I had reported my symptoms and taken it seriously. As Headway says, their New Tough “is the strength to report concussion symptoms, and it is the patience to complete recovery before returning to the game you love.” In my case, it’s no longer sailing I am fighting to get back to – it’s my life and my career.

I want to raise awareness for this injury so that people do not make the same mistakes that I did when taking care of their concussion. After my first one that I got from college sailing, I was not about to let some ‘little headache’ keep me from competing in our championships the next weekend. I consistently lied to the trainers saying I felt fine, thinking my symptoms would go away in a few days anyway. The joke was on me, however, as I never stepped in a sailboat again for the rest of my college career. I had no idea at the time just how severe and difficult a journey I was facing to recovery - only wanting to prove to my teammates (and myself) how “tough” I could be. I always wonder if I could’ve saved myself from this long process if only I had reported my symptoms and taken it seriously. As Headway says, their New Tough “is the strength to report concussion symptoms, and it is the patience to complete recovery before returning to the game you love.” In my case, it’s no longer sailing I am fighting to get back to – it’s my life and my career.


The Old Me
If only I could rewind time. I wish I could make all the pain disappear. I would do anything to go back to the old me. These were the thoughts that constantly replayed in my mind in the months following a concussion I sustained from a car accident in fall 2017. Before the accident, 2017 was the best year of my life – I had graduated from university, transitioned into a full-time position at a job that I loved, moved into a cozy apartment with a close friend, and fell in love. Then, my world turned upside down. Prior to getting a concussion, I viewed them as “just a bump to the head”, common in the realm of hockey and football, and something people recovered from in a matter of days. Oh boy was I wrong, and little did I know that I was about to go through the most difficult chapter of my life. In the initial days following my accident, I was in shock and pain from the whiplash, but the concussion symptoms were not apparent. So, as I have always done, I pushed through the pain and continued with my daily routine. I had played sports for a large part of my life, running on the cross country and track teams in high school and university. In sports and in life, I have always operated on the philosophy that when life gets tough, push yourself even harder. It’s all mind over matter, right? What I didn’t know how to cope with was when the mind itself is the very thing that is injured.

Rock Bottom
In the months following the accident, despite the medical treatments I was getting, my concussion symptoms worsened. I hit rock bottom and took a medical leave of absence from work in January 2018. I was insomniac, in constant pain, living with daily persistent headaches, and emotionally broken. For weeks, it was hard to even get out of bed to shower, let alone make breakfast. I struggled with post-concussion depression and anxiety, neither of which I had ever experienced before. I began isolating myself as the world became too much. I just didn’t feel human anymore. 

The Old Tough
After a few months, I was able to manage my sleep with medication and hastily returned to work. I knew I wasn’t fully recovered, but I was not giving up. For weeks, I pushed through work like a zombie, trying to do as much as I could with a broken brain. I left work everyday with a throbbing headache, sensory overload, complete brain fog, and throbbing pain. I forced a fake smile on the outside, but was struggling on the inside. Concussions are invisible injuries – someone may look perfectly fine on the outside but struggling in reality. The best analogy I can think of to describe a concussion is the feeling that your brain is trudging through mud. On better days, the mud might feel more like sand. On the worst days, it feels like cement. In August, my symptoms became so unbearable that I had to take a second leave. 

The New Tough
One of the difficulties with having a brain injury is the uncertainty that comes with it. When will I feel like myself again? When will my brain be back to normal? I finally embraced the New Tough and realized that concussion recovery takes time and a lot of patience. Although I accepted that I needed more time to recover, I was still going to fight, except in a different light. Before, I fought to push through my symptoms, desperately trying to get back to the old me. This time, I fought for my brain. I accepted the temporary me, and promised myself that I would do everything in my power to get better while letting my brain heal on its own schedule. I began to view myself as a science experiment, and sought additional treatments in addition to the regular physio, chiro, and massage appointments – including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cranio-sacral therapy, acupuncture, neurofeedback, and manual therapy with a concussion specialist. Neurofeedback and manual neck therapy were the two treatments that finally gave me pieces of my life back. I have also just started vision therapy with a neuro-optometrist, recognizing the importance of rehabilitating the eye-brain connection in concussion recovery. 

In December, I will be travelling to Guelph to participate in the MyoWorx program at MMTR Physiotherapy. With the progress I have seen to date with simple neck therapy and take-home exercises, I have realized the importance of “thinking outside the brain” and concurrently treating whiplash symptoms with concussion management. I can strongly relate to Paige Decker’s story and her frustrations with not getting the proper treatment. Similar to her recovery journey, I did not feel real progress until my whiplash injury was addressed. It is my hope that the MyoWorx Program will help accelerate the recovery and my goal to share what I learn from the program with fellow concussioners. 

Lessons: Forgiveness, Acceptance, Resilience, Hope 
"Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life."- Eckhart Tolle
I believe the concussion was a blessing in disguise. I learned the importance of forgiveness and being kind to yourself. I had a lot of guilt knowing the pain I put those closest to me in. Through meditation, I was able to forgive myself and let the past go. Another piece to the recovery was acceptance, and I strongly resonate with Eckhart Tolle’s quote above. As soon as I accepted the current situation as is and worked with it, my mental health improved drastically.

Another lesson I learned is the power of resilience in the face of adversity. I often tell myself, if I can get through this concussion, I can get through anything in life. In yoga the other day, the instructor brought up a teaching that is at the heart of Buddhism – that to be human is to suffer, and out of suffering comes strength, growth, and compassion. If it wasn’t for the concussion, I would not have developed the level of compassion I have now. I believe that we, as human beings, are all inextricably connected to one another, and we all crave human connection. A few days ago, I broke out into deep sobs out of nowhere. When my mom asked what was wrong, I tried to explain how I was suddenly overwhelmed by this emotion and desire to help others going through the same thing. I said I hoped no one has to ever experience the level of pain and hopelessness I felt at the lowest point of my concussion journey – and that if they did, I wanted to be there for them, hug them, and reassure them that this will pass. Because of the concussion, I discovered this untapped compassion and love in me, and a deep desire to help others who are suffering. Being able to connect with others who have gone through a similar journey has been incredibly rewarding, and I am so grateful that Headway has provided this opportunity. Concussion recovery can be a lonely journey, and I believe being vulnerable and open to sharing our stories is both powerful and therapeutic. As Brené Brown puts it, vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. 

Recovery Tips
I wanted to end my story with a summary of concussion recovery tips from my personal experience. I hope my story helps you in some way, and please feel free to reach out.
Get moving – Exercise is powerful. After my concussion, I couldn’t run, spin, or do anything strenuous. So, I discovered yoga and bought an indoor bike for controlled, gentle biking at home. Whatever you do, find a way to keep moving!
Eat for your brain – Diet is an important aspect of concussion recovery. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and foods high in Omega 3. Avoid processed foods, sugars, trans fats, and any other food groups that give you inflammation. For me, I had to cut out gluten completely and limit my diary intake, only then did my chronic inflammation go down.
Practice gratitude & mindfulness – I started a gratitude journal, writing everyday 5 things I was grateful for – from being able to kiss my little brother goodnight to the feeling of the warm sun on my skin. When you start by focusing on the simple things you’re grateful for, your sense of gratitude will magnify. I also started meditating daily using the app CALM, which was amazing for reducing stress and anxiety.
Disconnect from social media, connect with loved ones – Social media can be great in many ways, but when you are going through hard times, flipping through Instagram looking at how fabulous other peoples’ lives are isn’t great for your mental health. Learn to disconnect, and connect with family and friends in person. My concussion was a blessing in more than one way as I was able to spend more quality time with my little siblings during the recovery.
 Art therapy – Painting, drawing, crafts can all help you with expressing yourself, finding your creativity, and help pass the time. I also often look up inspirational quotes to stay positive.
Be your own best advocate – the brain is a complex system, and no two brain injuries are alike. Although providers in the medical field are there to help you, only you know what you are going through. The treatments that are finally getting me on the road to real recovery are ones I found by doing the research myself and/or heard through friends. When it comes to concussions, the standard care won’t cut it. Keep searching and keep asking until you find the right treatments. To everyone who is or knows someone going through the concussion recovery journey, know that you are never alone. My heart hurts with you, cries with you, laughs with you, and fights with you. Remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel during hard times, just hold onto hope and it will take you there. Something beautiful will grow from all of your struggles – and it will be you. 


I sat in the equestrian barn at my college, eager to try out a new sport, signing consent forms regarding health and safety. The instructor of my beginning riding class explained the precautions of horseback riding, noting off-hand that this could even mean death of paralyzation. A brief moment of worry crossed through my head as I remembered that horses were big animals that could seriously injure humans, but I quickly moved on, believing that only olympic level riders, not newbies like me, experienced such tragic injuries. Two years of riding later, I got my second concussion from the sport and though I didn’t realize it at the time, experienced a kind of death of the old me.

Despite the concussion, I managed to finish my senior year of college, graduate, and even secure a full-time job in the fall. Emotionally and physically, however, I was struggling. I dealt with (and still deal with) an ever-present headache, eye strain, electronic screen sensitivity, and relentlessly achey muscles, all of which made living a “normal” 22-year-old life feel impossible. I couldn’t go out with my friends to a bar because of the loud noise. I left work each day with a raging headache because of the screens. Worst of all, I couldn’t exercise, the thing that had always made me feel so alive and strong. All the things I couldn’t do weighed on my mental health. I have always struggled with depression but I started experiencing panic attacks that left me physically exhausted (along with all my other physical symptoms) and emotionally hopeless. I kept desperately wishing that one day I’d wake up and the concussion symptoms would be magically gone, me “healed”. 

A huge mental shift ended up radically altering the course of my concussion recovery. I met with an acquaintance from college who had dealt with a similarly debilitating concussion. I assumed that her cheery demeanor meant that she had fully recovered. In actuality though, she explained that she still dealt with many symptoms but was focusing on the progress she had made, noting how important it was to mentally challenge herself. As silly as it sounds, it was revolutionary to me that someone could be both still recovering from a concussion and happy. It struck me that my ideology of waiting and wishing the concussion to be healed was mentally harming me, paralyzing me from accepting the concussion and working with it rather than against it. 

From that point on, my recovery improved dramatically. I’ve learned to view my concussion as a form of chronic pain that I can manage with my lifestyle: something that might be ever-present but with both good and bad days, following a non-linear path. I’ve also learned to let go and accept that sometimes it’s more productive to breathe into the pain and be mindful of it rather than obsessing over possible strategies to magically take away the pain. I live my life at a much slower pace, taking breaks often, meditating, stretching, and doing art. I often laugh at myself about all the different public places I’ve laid down and rested. As my mind learned how to process the many layers of emotions related to my concussion, my brain too started recovering.

Another huge game-changer for me was focusing on practicing gratitude. I started using sticky-notes to jot down little things that I was grateful my body could do or new things I was capable of doing that I once couldn’t do because of my concussion. I wrote down even the smallest things, like being able to stay 10 minutes later at a party with friends or being able to kiss my girlfriend without a neckache, and I began to be proud of these small achievements. Even little victories are still victories. I also created a mental health journal, writing down things to tell myself when I was having a rough day, breathing/mindfulness exercises, and most importantly, quotes that inspire me. I especially adore Rupi Kaur’s poetry. One of her poems always grounds me and reminds me to value my body for all that it has gone through and still continues to fight to be. It reads:

your body
is a museum
of natural disasters
can you grasp how
stunning that is 

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or comments about what I’ve shared - talking to other concussion survivors helped me immensely and I’d love to spread the support! 


“Stop everything, wait nothing is making sense, I can’t see anything, the headaches never stop, I’m so nauseous I can’t even eat , noise and light are too much. The world is too much. I don’t belong here anymore.

That’s how I felt after my concussion. Everyone’s concussion is a little different, I found out I had acquired savant syndrome caused by the concussion. It’s an extremely rare instance where dormint Savant skills emerge at prodigious levels after a brain injury.

My skill is the ability to draw and paint, it was not there before, and it has its own rhythm... I paint and draw very quickly like a conductor with his Orchestra, my world disappears and for that moment, I sometimes forget about my concussion and allow the emotions to pour from me into my hands and onto the canvas.

Recently I’ve been painting cacti, I feel a connection, a stillness and loneliness but resilient and tough but ultimately barren as well. I will never get back what I lost, I hope to someday be symptom-free ,but at least I can make the world a little more beautiful, more purposeful with paint and those strokes flowing from somewhere deep inside my brain.


The ringing in my ears, the feeling as if I’m on a boat rocking on a rough sea, total darkness, pounding headache, and just the immense pressure I felt in my head and face. The periods of blindness became longer and there were times I’d even vomit from the pain and dizziness. All from the simple act of heading a soccer ball.

I started playing soccer when I was three years old. I loved soccer before I started playing and once I started playing, I fell deeply in love with the game. At three years old we began heading the ball. Despite the ball only being a size 3 at the time, it was still a questionable coaching move to have children whose heads are disproportionately larger than their weak necks and bodies, heading the ball. I never minded heading. And as I got older, I realized I didn’t have much size, I didn’t have the best skill, but I was the most fearless and pound for pound the toughest player on the field. At a young age I decided that I could and would play through any pain I may experience on the field.

At only ten years old, I suffered my first of a long list of concussions. We, as a society, we’re barely talking about concussions in professional athletes in 2009 and we sure weren’t talking about concussions in children. Ever since that concussion I’ve had a headache every day. Since that concussion every time I’d head the ball, I saw stars. But feeling so bad for so long became normal and eventually I started to think that feeling sick after heading a ball was normal. I told myself to toughen up. Never show pain.

This mentality led me to play through countless concussions, lie to doctors, coaches, and my parents about my symptoms going away. I barely graduated from eighth grade due to a very severe concussion. By that time, I was on concussion six. I missed three months of school and was in and out for the rest of the year. When I was in school, I spent most of my time at the nurse’s office laying in a dark room, sipping ginger-ale.

With that concussion, the neurologist told me that I definitely had a concussion and most likely had a brain bleed. I missed ten months of soccer before lying to my doctor that I was better, so he’d allow me to go back to soccer. I missed the high school season my freshman year of high school because I was still unable to play. Thankfully going into my sophomore year, I was ready to play and had played in my club teams’ winter and spring seasons under my belt as well as summer training.

I made the varsity team at my high school and I was so excited. I was also playing Eastern Pennsylvania ODP. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the end. Every day at school practice we’d run the mile and then we’d head the ball for the rest of the time. The headaches were excruciating. I began taking handfuls of Advil before and during each class. When I walked down the hallway, the sound of pills rattling around in my bag was obvious. Sometimes I’d keep the bottle of 300 pills on my desk during class when the pain was bad. This was the first time since eighth grade I’d have to leave class to throw up. I knew why this was happening, but I never would have admitted that to anyone at the time. I just pushed through school and then go to practice to put myself through more torture. The hits to the head began severely impacting my sleep. Some nights I couldn’t fall or stay asleep and other nights I’d just pass out. I stopped having dreams. Still to this day I haven’t had a dream. Schoolwork became so much harder and everything took much more effort than at once was necessary.

Once the season ended, my neurologist put me on a barbiturate to try to help with pain and sleep. It did nothing to touch those issues. I continued playing though with my club team. I continued heading the ball. That winter soccer season alone, I sustained three concussions. I knew we were at the end of my demise. I played that spring season until I broke my hip running track. My soccer had been at the top of its game and then to have a non-soccer injury take me out, I was devastated. But my hip was the least of my worries. My neurologist told me I’d never be able to play soccer again. I was so foggy that didn’t remember and then months later my mom had to tell me. That summer, August 2015, I sustained a horrific concussion at overnight camp of all places. That concussion was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I ended up missing my entire junior year of high school. I deferred and transferred schools. I was able to channel my athleticism and competitive nature into cross country. I truly believe that my cross-country team saved my life. Cross country gave me a purpose, a sport, and friends who I could tell anything. Cross country also helped me feel comfortable at my new school. 

My concussions taught me who my real friends are. They’ve brought me closer to my immediate family. I learned that I can handle anything life throws at me. I’ve had a total of14 broken bones, over 20 Concussions, 2 brain bleeds, and a skull fracture. I deal with every symptom post-concussion in the book and then some. I can’t remember a moment I was pain free since 2009. I watched my friends graduate a full year ahead. I questioned myself worth may times. My coach called me a sociopath due to my ability to ignore pain. I’m not a sociopath. I just want to be the best I can be always. I’m now a student at the University of Pittsburgh as a neuroscience major with minors in chemistry and applied statistics on the premed track.

Headaches - Nausea - Vomiting - Dizziness - Fogginess - Double vision - Vision loss with exercise - Autonomic dysfunction - ADHD - Light sensitivity - Noise sensitivity - Anxiety - Depression - Irritability - Tremors - Nystagmus - Seizures - Episodes of narcolepsy - Confusion - Memory issues - Ringing in my ears - Cranial nerve palsy - Sleep disturbances

These are symptoms that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. I’ve stopped responding to all the therapies out there. I’ve been on over thirty medications. I’ve seen a plethora of doctors. I’m still in the care of Dr. Steven Stache at the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia. He’s been amazing and he has done so much for me. I check in with him whenever I’m home from school and I have his number saved in my favorites on my phone and I can call him at any time about anything whether it be a legitimate problem, I need my medications refilled, or I’ve done something stupid (like powder puff football). I’m now trying to live my life as normally as possible, trying really hard not to hit my head, despite the constant concussion symptoms. According to all the latest concussion research out there, that’s what’s best for me at this point. And honestly, after a missed year of school and multiple hospitalizations, I’m glad to finally try to have a “normal” life.

Concussions are elusive and invisible. Every concussion is different even in the same person. My first concussion caused me to sleep all the time and I was always super hard to wake. With my concussions 6 and on, my sleep was nonexistent. There was a time I was hospitalized after nine sleepless nights. My body was shutting down. I was in a ketamine induced coma in the ICU for three nights. When the doctor first told me the news, I was so foggy that I barely even understood what he said. Around Thanksgiving of 2015, I realized the extent of the damage I had done, and I understood that I would never play soccer again. It felt like I had lost a piece of myself. Something that was a part of my life forever was ripped away. I had been getting interest from Navy and it became my goal to play soccer there and then go on to be the first female Navy SEAL. Once soccer was gone, so was that dream.
I urge everyone to take concussions seriously. Speak up for a teammate you may think has a concussion. You may save their life. I suffered second impact syndrome and I’m incredibly lucky not to be permanently disabled or dead. Soccer was an amazing time in my life but now I’ve found a passion in helping though with PCS. Remember that symptoms can take a while to appear. Look for the good. There are always people to talk to about everything.


Post-Concussion Syndrome is a serious and for some, a dark world, but I am here to give hope and shed light for those struggling. Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is a complex disorder in which various symptoms continue to linger for weeks and sometimes even months or years after a concussion. These symptoms attack in various ways and effect your physical, cognitive, psychological and behavioral state. For many including myself, the toughest part about this injury is the fact that you cannot see it; it is invisible. To the world, you look fine, you appear healthy, and you don't have any visible problems. People have preconceived notions and thoughts regarding PCS, and make comments like “it will just take time” or “there is not much you can do” which they believe to be helpful, but in reality tend to add to the frustration of the syndrome. If you have, or are currently suffering from PCS, you have probably heard comments like these throughout your journey that can make you feel disconnected and misunderstood. Well I am here to tell you that I understand your pain, and there are things you can do to help you get back on the road to living a normal life.

Every Concussion is different and the road to recovery is unique for each person, but the frustration and uncertainty are feeling that all PCS patients deal with. Even though there are struggles and negativity associated with PCS, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, each injury is different and we all have our own battles, but what can we do to gain some control in our lives and get us onto the road to recovery? In the next few paragraphs, I am going to discuss how I have navigated my road to recovery, and hopefully give you some helpful tools from my “Tool Box” method, that can help you on your journey. 

We all know a tool box is a great resource in order to make or fix things. A tool box has many tools that are used for different jobs and projects. Just like the tools in that toolbox, there are different types of resources, or tools, that can help you get through PCS. Everybody’s tool box may be different, but mine looked like this....

#1- You are not alone. Understand that you are not alone and you do not have to fight this on your own and asking for help is OK. It took me a while to finally understand that something was not right within me, but it took me even longer to ask for help. Especially as an athlete, I have always tried to fight through pain, but when it comes to the brain, do not play games.

Also understand that you are not the only one suffering from this. There are many just like you and me who have, or who are currently dealing with PCS. Once I found this out, it gave me motivation and comfort to know that I am not the only one dealing with struggles such as not being able to get out of bed, or not being able to read a paragraph without having a splitting headache. Also having a supportive group of family and friends really helped me. Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

#2- Seek out a Concussion Specialist- No disrespect to general doctors, but they are not specialists when it comes to head trauma. I have heard many stories where finding the right care has been difficult, and for many it is simply because they seek help in the wrong places. Find a specialist. For me, I was fortunate to find a concussion specialist who was dedicated specifically to Sports Concussions which has helped me in ways I never thought imaginable. She took the time to understand what I was going through and underlined the severity of the injury. She explained how the process was going to work and was always reminding me that we would get through this together.

#3- Try it and Go Down the List- As mentioned before, each concussion is different and the symptoms for each person are unique. With that being said, there is no one treatment that will fix it all, so try them all. Try it and see if it works, if not continue down the list. For me this took some getting use to because prior to my concussion, any injury I have ever had, consisted of a timeline for when I would be healed. I am here to tell you that there is no determined timeline. For some it could be days, weeks, months, or even years. Currently I am a little over a year into my recovery process. I have tried many different things and have had my fair share of obstacles and roadblocks but can confidently say that I can see the light at the end of my tunnel, and you will get there too. Below are a list of therapies and techniques I experienced and implemented in order to get where I am today: 

Concussion Specialist- Helped identify the issues, explain/understand, map out road to recovery
Vestibular Therapy- Helped Balance and dizziness
Eye Therapy- Helped with reading and headaches
Acupuncture- Helped with stress, anxiety, and headaches
Psychologist(Therapist)- Helped with anxiety, talking out problems (3rd party), and comfort
Neurologists- Helped identify key issues are areas effecting me
Brain Core/Biofeedback- Helped identify what part of the brain that was irregular and help see what was wrong in the brain.
Supplements/Brain Foods- Helped maximize brain function and energyJournaling- Help keep track of progress and fall backs. Things that helped things that did not.
Hobbies- For me fishing. Helped with anxiety and bring normalcy back
Exercise/Meditation- Helped me feel good build endorphins and control breathing and stress

Note: These were just some of the resources I used to get me back on track. I will dive deeper into each in another article where I will discuss what they entail and which ones have had the greatest impact on me.

#4- Learn and Research- Understanding why things were happening within me and why these symptoms were lingering, really helped me grasp what was going on in my body. It also made me understand why I was doing all the things I was doing. It can be as simple as listening to a podcast by a doctor or listening to someone else's story. The more I learned, the more I felt in control.

#5- Be Patient and Have Compassion for Yourself-
Easier said than done, believe me I know. I am a person who went from always working and being successful in my day to day life, to having my world as I knew it, come to a complete halt. Was it difficult? Hell yes. But was it impossible to adjust? No. Be patient and don't be hard on yourself. Again, if you try and push and trick yourself into thinking you are heeled, you will only set yourself back and risk the chance of having your negative symptoms resurface. But remember, we are only human, if this does happen don't get down on yourself; you are not alone and it will get better.

 I hope my Tool Box to recovery can help you through your process and journey. It was hard, but as Tom Hanks said in one of my favorite movies A League of Their Own, "If it was easy everyone would do it, it’s the hard that makes it fun." The fun part will come when you reach the light and you will be able to look back and see how far you have come because YOU WILL GET BETTER!!!


As a kid lacrosse was my favorite sport. I started playing when I was 5 years old. I was always practicing in the backyard, going to my sisters games and counting down the years until my own games. I ended up going to Campbell University, a small Division I School in North Carolina. 

In college I missed a few games for injuries or illness. I remember I went back to college junior year and I told my coach “I just want to be healthy and play all season.” We both kind of laughed. I had four concussions in one year, the last one that season was severe. I caught a pass at midfield, sprinted down the field for a fast break, I got pushed to the ground, I hit my head, my neck whiplashed and I hit my head again and lost consciousness. All the pressure went straight to my forehead, blood dripped down my head and turf burn covered my elbows. I could move or get up for a few minutes. My friend asked me, “Cooks what’s wrong?” I said “it’s my head”. I remember the pain just trying to say that. 

I had concussion symptoms for about six weeks. I didn’t go to classes for three weeks which allowed 47 credits for senior year. It was anything from headaches, nausea, dizziness, memory, etc. I was isolated in my bedroom for weeks. I remember walking to the dining hall and my awareness was so bad I was hoping I could cross the street safely. When I got there one of the workers said “you’re smiling, but you look like you have no idea what’s going on.” I would have a conversation with someone and forget what we were talking about and I had to ask them “what are we talking about?” This terrified me. Then, after a few weeks I realized that game was the last game I could play. The thought of that was something I could never imagine. My dad always said to me “play each game like it’s your last.” I always knew what it meant, but it didn’t sink in until it was too late. 

I went back to school senior year and I was feeling healthy and back to normal. A few weeks in I started to have more trouble in school than I’ve ever had before. I vividly remember one night when I was in the library studying for a test. I stayed on the same page for an hour. I couldn’t remember a thing. I broke down, feeling frustrated, defeated, and in a way worthless. I was so confused because I thought I was better. I had headaches at practice in the sunlight, in class, reading, driving in the rain with windshield wipers, looking at the grocery store shelves, doing a sit up. Almost everyday I had a headache 6 months later. I told my athletic trainer I had headaches and I didn’t know why. She said it might be post concussion symptoms. I had no idea that even existed. I finally saw a neurologist and he referred me to a vestibular therapist. The therapist ran vision screens and he said my vision was severe so I needed to see an ocular therapist. He told me that I comprehended 10% of the information I read, when an average person comprehends 90%. He also told me I had the reading level of a second grader. I was a senior in college.

After all of this I remember leaving practice one day. I called my mom and said, “I can’t do it”. She told me I could pack up my bags and come home. That was definitely not an option. Then, I went to my advisors and coach and we came up with a plan to get me back on track. After all of this, I eventually made progress (and graduated!).

Through this situation, I learned to never take a day for granted. Life can change in the blink of an eye and absolutely nothing is guaranteed. I learned to stay present and to focus on each day. I had a new outlook on gratitude. It taught me to appreciate the little things in life because that was about all I could do at times. It taught me to ask for help when I need it. I gained strength and courage. I developed more faith because that was all I had at times. This injury changed everything for me, but it also completed me. It made me stronger and has shaped me into the person I am today. Some of the lessons I learned I have carried with me even years after the injury. 


 My name is Molly Hryciw I’m from Toronto Ontario. I started playing hockey in grade 2 and I played all the way until my senior year of high school, it was my passion and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In the spring of my grade 8 year, I fell in love with lacrosse. All through these years of what you could call amateur sports I was very lucky because I had never had a concussion. I had experienced other nagging injuries like shin splints and what not but nothing that kept me off the field. 

I was lucky enough to earn a scholarship to play division II lacrosse in Michigan. Of ten freshmen I was the only starter. I was definitely going places. But that all changed on March 25th, 2018. We played an away game that day. We were bright and early on the bus and headed to Indianapolis, it was a snowy frigid day barley above freezing but, the turf had been ploughed and it was time to play. I took my spot on my teams restraining line as the first draw went up, my knowledge from what happened in the game is limited but this is what I know. Just before the end of the first half I was playing defense and my captain was playing beside me she called for help of the player she was defending, as I slid over to help my teammate the 6ft attacker from the opposing team dropped her shoulder right into my forehead. My frail 5ft 2in frame hit the ground and my neck snapped back. As my teammates helped me up and I walked to the bench my vision went black. Our athletic trainer Jen brought me and sat me down on the bench. Now I know what you’re thinking “but your vision went black how were you still walking?” I now understand that I had gone hysterically blind from the blow to the head. I was very scared but unusually calm for the situation. All I can remember vividly from that day is the darkness and saying “Jen its dark, it’s really Dark.” As the half was ending, I started to get my vision back, but it was incredibly bright and looked like a kaleidoscope. We headed inside for a break at half time. Half-time went by in a foggy haze until my head coach looked at me and said: “You’re good to go right? Because you’re starting.” 

Being a very scared freshman, I agreed that I was “good to go”. As I started the second half with minimal vision, I only stayed on the field for about 15 seconds before I was brave enough to admit I was not okay, and I ran for the bench. After the game we got on the bus to go home and I spent the whole ride home with my noise cancelling headphones on trying to make it quiet and relieve some of the pressure in my head. The next day I did a baseline test in which I did not answer a single question correctly. 

The next day after I finished, I did a symptoms test. which ultimately diagnosed me with a concussion, and my trainer told me that I would never play lacrosse again. The recovery process was long and tough symptoms test every day at the same time rehab for the whiplash in my neck, rehab for my eyes and weekly doctors’ appointments with a neurosurgeon. The biggest hurdle to recovery for me was the unbelievable amount of exhaustion I felt completing day to day tasks. I was lucky enough to have two of my best friends Logan and Rachel and my twin sister Claire with me through it all. 

As the season ended and finals were fast approaching, I had my end of season meeting with my coach who informed I was being cut from the team. To say I was devastated was an understatement. But it was time to move on to new adventures, and different passions so I packed my bags and headed for Toronto. 

To this day I still experience symptoms. I have had a headache every day since March 25 2018 but onward I push. I often question if I had been brave enough to tell my coach I was not “good to go” the first time would I still have these symptoms. But these things cannot be changed now. I am lucky to still be able to live a happy fun filled life. I am working to finish my degree in recreation and leisure services. I have been very lucky that Humber has been able to effectively accommodate me so I can be successful even with my symptoms. The most important thing to remember is the scariest thing an athlete can realize is that they are not okay but the bravest thing they can do is admit it. Be smart, be brave, be new tough.


My name is Baylee Trani, I am a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), studying Developmental and Clinical Psychology and getting my secondary degree in American Sign Language and Deaf Cultural Studies. I played on the Women’s Ice Hockey team and a fun fact about me is that I am Hard-of-Hearing. I am the first ever Hard-of-Hearing Division One athlete for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) program. I played for the Hard-of-Hearing and Deaf USA National Ice Hockey Team, until it was decided that enough was enough… this is my concussion story.

My concussion story starts when I was 16 years old, playing youth ice hockey back in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California. Receiving my first concussion was a simple check from behind going head first into the dasher of the boards. Instantly, I became dazed and confused, my vision kept going in and out of focus, I just kept thinking to myself that “this was so weird”. I somehow got a penalty and skated my way to the penalty box to serve my two minutes. My coach, at the time, kept calling my name and asking if I was okay. I responded with“I am good coach” just like any other player would do, but then thinking I could go back out there once my two minutes were served… I threw up in the penalty box…inside my helmet… all down my jersey. I ended staying put until the game was over which was not for long. I was then given a handful of Advil and Tylenol from a team parents because “I got sick on the bench”. No one was educated at the time about concussions, and how dangerous it was to take medication after a hit to the head. The only reason I went to the doctors that following day was so that I could get cleared to play and that was that.

From age 16 to 18, I received two more concussions. Now, I am entering into first year of college hockey, with 3 concussions already standing. Freshman years concussion took place at an away game in Union. During the first period, a couple of shifts in, I was skating down the left side of the boards. I took an elbow to the face mask and my helmet came all the way up. I went face first into the turnbuckle that was not very well padded. I knocked out, woke up to my helmet broken, face and nose bleeding, eyes blood shot, tooth dead, and brain completely shook. I had no idea where I was at, who I was, and what I was doing. I thought we were in the fourth period of the hockey game, I thought we were playing Brown, and I was laughing uncontrollably. I could not focus on anything, one of my teammates had to watch me in the locker room while the team was still playing… I looked at her dead in the eyes and said “Im going to go brush my teeth.” To this day, it is all just a blur. I just remember it happened during November and that recovery took a long time because I had to go see a vestibular therapist. They had to help me with my depth perception. Because of the hit, I had to get glasses for when I drive around at night or stare at my computer screen for homework assignments. I also had skip my finals because they were that following week, I was still trying to remember where my classes were and who my professors were. This concussion was most definitely tiring because of the headaches and the constant strain of my eyes, however, I was able to finish off the season.

Fast-forward to Sophomore year, January, intersession. This concussion occurred by a complete fluke. My teammate and I were messing around and her stick got caught in my skate and I just tripped and hit my head onto the ice weird. Right at that moment, I became furious. Then I was laughing and then I started crying. I was angry that I was crying, which made me laugh and then it was a cycle of those three emotions. I went into the trainers room and knew that I got my fourth concussion. This concussion was different, because my comeback was quite fast… I actually felt good. I was able to process information, just the only thing was that my concentration was awful. I could not concentrate and I felt disconnected with myself, like I was having this out of body experience every time I had to focus. I started receiving a concussion medicine which allowed me to focus better, but then this made me into hyperdrive mode. I was so zoned into whatever I was doing, I would be late to my classes because I would be watching a squirrel and I could not unfocus until I knew what he was doing. I then got taken off of that and just slowly had to take the time adjusting to this new so called normal. However, I was able to pass my impact test after several tries and then I was able to finish off my Sophomore year.

Now, last year. Junior year. It is in November again, we were at a home playing Dartmouth. As I am forechecking their defense, crossing in front of the net when out of nowhere, the goalie just punches me in the face with her glove. Given the amount of concussions I have had, the chances of me getting another concussion is super high… I instantly became dazed, kinda confused, and slowly skate to the bench. I knew I had my 6th concussion. I went into the locker room all loopy and unbalanced, I was punch drunk. Even though this concussion didn’t result in loss of consciousness, and I did not have the tell-tell signs of a concussion like throwing up, nauseous, etc. This one was involving a different portion of my brain, involving anxiety and speech. I had a very hard time getting my words together, talking to people, I would get intensely nervous when it came to going to public places. I was failing tests because I could not understand the context of the questions. I was overthinking everything, and getting so caught up on finishing the test on time that I would end up missing questions. I used to be a very bubbly person, outgoing, and talkative. All that changed after this concussion. I found myself becoming disconnected with the team, and needing my own space. I used to love working out with others, and now, I found myself wanting to work out by myself. I wanted to be all alone so I would not have to talk anyone and I could do my own thing. My head would pound after having a simple conversation on how I was doing. I would walk around with my head down and try to get out of public areas as quick as I could.

Till this day, I am still recovering - before the summer, I was given a choice. A choice to hang it up and retire or continue playing and risk it. Whatever I decided, would be considered but ultimately it came down to my doctors, athletic trainers, and my coaching staff. When the time came for senior year, we all agreed that it was time to hang it up and retire for my own health. Looking at things now, with a clear head and a step back, I would not want it any other way. Even though hockey has been what I have known for 18 years of my life, I have learned that it is not everything. Hockey without doubt, has taught me amazing life lessons, has taught me how to overcome any negativity that is thrown in my way. Hockey has shown me friendships that will last a life time, and has shown me that I am a very strong woman. Although I do not get to skate and play this year, I am still a part of the team. I help do video for our practices and games, and I am involved in all the student athlete meetings and coaches talks. I have all my stuff in the locker room still for when I do get my workout in, throughout the week.

It is nice to still feel a part of the team, and finally I am starting to feel like myself again and having this support system from the coaches, teammates, and school is something that has been extremely helpful. It is also refreshing to focus on alternatives like school, work, and my future of wanting to pursue graduate school. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that every step in your life…every positive and negative event is leading you onto your path that was chosen for you specifically. I think that part of my journey is to help educate children and adults on this particular subject. I think that owning up to an injury like a concussion and accepting your new path of life is something that takes a lot of courage and a lot of strength. So when it feels like the end of the world, it truly is just the beginning.


My story began when I was 12 years old playing baseball for my local little league club. I was struck in the head by a baseball when I was at bat. My only memory of the game was an anonymous voice saying, “are you ok Jared?” I looked like a boxer who had just been knocked out. This was the start of my three year journey to recovery. Slurred speech, short term memory loss and irritability were only a small fraction of the symptoms I had. For the longest time I could not walk without falling over, I could not sleep without getting shooting pains in my head, I feared opening my eyes because the bright light brought on severe headaches that would take hours to subside. I hid in my bedroom because even the noise of clattering silverware, a glass being placed on the table, or a small conversation caused immense pain that took forever to go away. I was scared. I had no idea what was going on with me. It was hard to remember conversations that I had with people; I would forget what the topic of the conversation was and who I was even talking to. My concussion secluded me from the rest of the world. I used to be very active and there was never a time where I was not doing something, but to be told you cannot do any activity anymore and that you have to rest all day was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

I was prescribed complete rest for the first four months. I physically and mentally could not do anything. My life felt like a light bulb that was shut off and never turned back on. Although I believe rest is very important to recovery, it unfortunately can destroy you personally. I became severely depressed to the point where my mom found me in the closet contemplating suicide. Each day felt like the same as the day before, with the same persistent symptoms that never seemed to improve. It was hard to find mindless things to do, because there was actually nothing I could do. As the months went by I was able to start increasing my exercise a little bit. I was able to walk to the end of my driveway and back up to my bedroom which was then followed by a four hour nap. One thing that kept me sane throughout the resting process was that I was able to drum on my lap. Drumming was my escape from all the problems I was dealing with. It was not too loud and it did not require any thinking. I just played. Also, I learned to set small goals to accomplish throughout the day. It gave me something to do and it made me feel good to know that I could still accomplish things. I learned to set these goals through my time spent therapy.

I was involved with occupational, speech and physical therapy. My time spent in occupational and speech therapy was to help with my short term memory loss, slurred speech and my hand writing. If one would have told me that our skills get impaired from concussions, I would not believe them, but to see my handwriting reduced to that of a second grader, was all the proof I needed to understand. The fight back to recovery was very, very slow and consisted of baby steps, small victories and determination. In the beginning of physical therapy I had to wear a heart monitor on my chest to make sure I kept my heart rate below a certain bpm. Months were spent riding the same stationary bicycle on the same setting and doing the same stretches in hopes of not getting a headache or any eye pain. As I started to improve I was able to slowly start doing more exercise until I reached a point a year later where I could take my final physical therapy test.  

My recovery at home was just as tedious. I had to do many eye and memory exercises. One of which was called Vizual Edge. This was an eye and memory exercise program on the computer. Once I was able to start using the computer again for short periods at a time, I was able to start doing this program. There were different exercises designed to help with depth perception, visual flexibility, visual recognition and visual tracking. When I first started I could not handle it because I was getting severe eye pain and headaches. I stopped the program and waited several months later to start back up again. I still had eye pain and headaches but they were not as bad as when I first started, so I pushed through it. This program played a huge part in my recovery, as it helped me face the challenges of school.   

School posed a very difficult obstacle for me to overcome. I went to school for half a day until the end of December. I was determined to try a full day starting in January and even though I was doing full days, I spent a lot of time in the nurse sleeping due to terrible headaches. For the entirety of 7th grade and the first half 8th grade I was on a 50% workload. Halfway through 8th grade I moved up to 75% of the work. Around the last two months I was doing 85%. In the beginning of 9th grade I was committed on doing 100% and I proved to myself and my doctors that I could do it; I did it. My sunglasses become a normal part of my outfit as I wore them all the time. Prior to acquiring my noise-canceling headphones, I spent many months eating in the guidance office by myself. When I finally got these headphones I found out that I could start eating in the cafeteria with my friends again. I received many strange looks from other students as they passed by me with my headphones and sunglasses on. It was hard to interact with the other students because to them I was this weirdo who was always wearing sunglasses and headphones, leaving class early, receiving handout notes, doing half the work and sleeping in the nurse everyday.

Looking back on what I went through, I should not blame anyone for treating me the way they did. They just did not understand the type of injury I had and its effects on me. A concussion affects you mentally and physically and I found it very beneficial to talk to others with similar injuries. Being able to relate to others and talk about my injury helped me understand that I am not alone. Through my recovery I learned to not let the concussion define who I was. I lived by the phrase “NEVER GIVE UP” and because of that phrase, I know that perseverance conquers. Today I am currently 18 years old and going to school at Temple University. I am studying neuroscience and am pre-med. I want to do more than just share my story with others, my goal is to help people who have also suffered brain injuries which is why my head injury inspired me to pursue a career in neurosurgery.  


I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never fully recover from the head injury I sustained in what will be three years ago this October. Since that day, I’ve passed through countless doctors waiting rooms, A&Es, scanning machines, therapy sofas, and almost every emotion ranging from deep depressions to blissful euphoria. The experience has been the most formative of my life and has changed me into someone unrecognizable to the one who was collapsed in a heap on a rugby pitch in the South of England back in 2017. 

The injury
I remember the incident distinctly, a quick but powerful clash of heads with a teammate as we both tried to tackle an opposition player. My friend, Dave, an imposing South African chap had a gaping head wound whereas my injuries weren’t immediately as apparent. 

The first lesson my head injury would teach me about myself was my sometimes-self-destructive need to not let others down. I played the remaining 60-minutes of the match which passed in something of a daze. 

I’ve hit my head playing rugby more times than I can count, and this was by no means the biggest collision. But something immediately seemed different about this time. When I got home, I immediately felt unwell. Over the next three days I would descent into a mental headspace where I had convinced myself my body was failing me and I was going to die. 

I began my journey with my local health services and was repeatedly told ‘it was all in my head’ – no sh*t! A diagnosis, self at first but later confirmed by a great GP was the first step towards a modicum of mental stability. People say don’t google your symptoms but for me, I found an explanation that suited the symptoms I was experiencing far better than what the doctors were describing as just a minor concussion that would pass in a few weeks. 

‘Post-concussion syndrome’, a derivative of concussion that a small proportion of cases develop in to. It’s essentially concussion but with the added benefits of a host of mental side-effects not restricted to: hypersensitivity to light and sound, depression, anxiety, excessive sweating, headaches, balance issues, agoraphobia – you name it. 

I began a 6-8 week period of moving no further than from between my bed and sofa. I could stand for maybe 10 seconds. If I stood too quickly, I would find myself in a heap on the floor a few seconds later having blacked out. I fell out of eating and drinking regularly which must have stinted my progress substantially. 

My work – I was a journalist for an agricultural magazine called Farmers Weekly, were incredibly understanding and gave me the time and support I needed to be off in order to focus on my recovery. I would not have coped otherwise. My ability to deal with stress had quickly evaporated with the injury. Dealing with these sorts of affairs early or asking for help with them from friends and family relieved a huge burden from my already strained mind. I was also able to get housemates to cook for me as I didn’t have the energy to stand up for long enough to do it myself.  

Life quite quickly descended into an intolerable repetitive cycle, caught between stir craziness from not being able to look at text or screens, going outside or talking to friends and no energy to move very much at all. It meant pushing myself in one facet would make me worse in another, leaving me in generally an intolerable existence. 

Having the right people checking on with me was so important. I had a lot of friends who did not understand an injury they could not physically see. Their reactions were often of the ‘pull yourself together’ variety which is not helpful when you feel your whole life crashing down around you. I shed a lot of dead weight in the friend department over this period and really learned who was valuable to me.

My first break-through came from buying a turbo trainer – basically a treadmill for a bike, which I would do for 5 minutes a day at first. Initially I felt worse immediately after, but the small amount of dopamine that it produced dragged me out of my stupor and gave me the saplings of a purpose and a goal for my empty days. 

Soon, key symptoms began receding and with them my ability to look at screens – albeit very dim ones – brought connectivity with the outside world and a welcome distraction from the monotony of staring out of my window. More energy meant I could reinvigorate myself with nicer food, which in turn galvanised me to go outside and go for walks of increasing size. I soon took back to driving (perhaps too soon) and began to find a purpose in the endless days of isolation. 

I think it was around this stage that I had decided I really needed to speak to a professional about the way I was feeling. My ability to cope with life had all but disappeared and I had so few reference points to see if how I was feeling was ‘normal’. I’ve always been an anxious, shy individual, despite perhaps appearing to be quite gregarious and outgoing at an exterior glance. The head injury had compounded my deeply ingrained insecurities and while I had self-medicated with alcohol and drugs previously, there was suddenly nowhere to hide. 

Therapy was an immense relief instantaneously. If it’s a route you decide to go down, it’s important to enter it with an open mind, a desire to learn and change and a willingness to pick open a lot of often painful wounds to find out who you really are. It was at this stage that things started getting interesting. 

I began thriving in pulling down too long held misconceptions about who I was and what I believed in. I discovered an unquenchable and often ugly ego that stopped me from being openminded as well as a sarcastic streak that was a defense mechanism against taking things seriously and committing myself to new challenges. I came to appreciate myself for who the authentic me was and three years on I know that despite still have a long way to go, I’m far closer to being somebody I can live with and don’t need to chemically make my own company more bearable. 

I read a study about post-concussion syndrome that said if you haven’t completely recovered after three years, you never will. So, I began arbitrarily setting goals for where I would be after X month. This was one of my biggest mistakes. I would place huge pressure to be in a certain headspace by a time based on no evidence whatsoever and then be devastated when I invariably hadn’t achieved that goal. Looking back now, I can tell you that everyone is completely different and the advice from doctors never really helped me in this respect. A head injury is entirely relative to the person suffering from it. Become an expert in your own brain and figure out where yours is at and what you need to do to it to keep it functioning as best as it can. 

I have now arrived at a place where I don’t expect to ever make a full recovery. Just last week I was reminded of the permanence of my injury. It still knocks me back. I allow myself to think I have fully recovered, and I get careless, thinking I can return to my post head-whack ways. 

Making sacrifices is key. You only get one brain and you have to be relentless in your pursuit of returning to a tolerable living condition. In my (almost) 3 years of post-concussion syndrome I have given up and returned to Rugby three times (the third now being the last), I’ve given up drinking, meat, late nights, loud music and take far better care of myself than I ever have. I have received no end of criticism from now ex-friends who called me boring and castigate me for abandoning an old way of life. 

No one else ever has to live a day in your shoes. I’m lucky enough to have found an equilibrium, that barring a few old vices, I can do almost everything I did previously. That came from an overwhelming willingness to get better at any cost and to make the changes necessary to get here. 

Head injuries are all relative. Don’t let anybody tell you yours is better or worse than anyone else’s. Don’t let anyone tell you you need to man up or get on with things. I’ve experienced the most incredible lows and have considered suicide just once. When you’re dealing with stakes as high as this you have to own your recovery. Become the expert in your condition and bend over backwards to get yourself better. 

This was my experience and while these things may have worked for me, they might not work for you. All I would say is there are almost always things you can do to make yourself that small degree better. View your recovery in small degrees and take each little one at a time. Celebrate each improvement and be patient with each slide back. It’s not all uphill, but learning about your own resilience can be a life affirming process. 

Good luck on your journey!


The power of a teacher is something that is not spoken about enough. Yes teachers teach you math and how to read. Teachers give you tests and grades. Your teachers might even coach you. But teachers do so much more than that. They teach you life lessons; they care for you, support you, challenge you, and often act as your “school parent” during the day. When a student connects with a teacher a special spark happens. These connections can change their whole school experience, hopefully for the better. Teachers are not given enough credit for the work they do and the time they put in in order to support their students. 

Starting in my sophomore year of high school 6 years ago, I have sustained 6 concussions. From these concussions I’ve been plagued with dizziness, major reading struggles, light sensitivity, memory problems, changing vision and visual disturbances, and difficulty in participating in sports and exercise. Oh, and I’ve had a headache just about every single day for 6 years straight. Put these symptoms in a blender and add fluorescent classroom lights, sports practices, hours of homework, studying, SATs, Beowulf, high school drama, and school dances and you have yourself one pretty disastrous drink. 

Getting diagnosed with my first concussion was a world changer. I’m a swimmer and I always thought that swimmers didn’t get concussions, so at the time I had little knowledge about what a concussion actually was. I knew it happened when you hit your head but never knew the effects it had on a person. I went from swimming 5 days a week to doing no exercise, from doing homework and papers weeks in advance to being weeks behind, from getting As and Bs to not being able to sit and focus to even take a quiz, and from meticulously organized notes to scribbles and doodles that were supposed to be notes. 

These symptoms were all new to me and were something I didn’t know how to deal with. I would sit in classes with a throbbing headache from SmartBoards, painfully attempt to write essays only to realize I couldn’t read the book fully to be able to write about it, and would take geometry quizzes that I reviewed for 10 minutes before only to find out I had forgotten how to do the math already by the time I took the quiz. All of this and I would push through to then go to the pool and try to convince my coaches, athletic director, and trainer I was fine to go to practice and compete. Luckily they were all on my side and despite my constant complaints and efforts to hop in the pool despite still having symptoms, they each worked with me to find new ways to stay involved as captain and with the team, even if it didn’t mean competing. 

One of the most important things to have during the recovery period of a concussion is support. To try and manage symptoms, appointments, school, and sports by yourself simply doesn’t work. Almost 6 years since my first concussion and I still credit my high school teachers and coaches every day as one of the major reasons I was able to progress as much as I have and why I have stayed positive through it all. As I’ve continued through college I am truly grateful for the teachers I had in high school who helped me manage schoolwork, checked in with me, and most importantly, were able to break through my stubbornness and explain the legitimacy of a concussion to me. 

Throughout high school as I sustained each concussion, my teachers were always there for me. In English I had a teacher who emailed me after my first concussion and told me to not try and finish Beowulf and homework for the night because “reading with a concussion just doesn’t work.” Although reading is still hard for me now, for a while it was nearly impossible. I was only able to read for 5-10 minutes and then would have to stop for the night; only to find out I didn’t retain what I read. Due to this I was constantly behind despite my huge efforts to power through and stay on track with the rest of my class. My teacher was more than understanding and would allow me to do assignments orally rather than full essays at the beginning, and then together we worked out a plan so that I slowly started writing bullet point essays, then outlines, until I could fully work up to writing a full essay myself. He was never disappointed with me if I came into class with my work incomplete, but rather would find a time during the day to work out a plan that would allow me to complete the work in the way that I was able to tolerate and still learn from. Although reading and writing have been one of the hardest things since my concussions, they have continued to be my favorite things to do because of the support, encouragement, humor, and guidance from my high school English teacher that have made it so I never wanted to stop trying to improve. 

In other classes I was lucky enough to have two beyond amazing advisors who got me through each day at school. Each morning I would start my day by checking in with one of them or my athletic director to talk about my symptoms and my “plan of attack” for the day. One of my advisors would email me at night to check in to see how homework was going and what work I might need help catching up on. My other advisor would check in with me throughout the day, asking me how classes were going, how I was feeling, and then asking me to rate my headache on a scale of 1-10. As she asked me these questions we recorded the answers throughout the day so that we were able to pin point potential symptom triggers and adapt my schedule as needed. In addition, my advisor would take time out of her day to sit with me in the hallway during my study hall to read Huck Finn or U.S. History to me since she knew reading was a struggle. Both of my advisors would work with me each afternoon before leaving for the day to see what homework I had and what assignments I still needed to make up. Together each afternoon we would map out a plan of what I was going to do that night, reminding me that if my headache got worse it was okay to stop and I would not get in trouble for not completing all of my assignments right away. My advisors were always there for me. Often I would walk into one of their rooms and ask them to help “plan out my life.” This was my way of telling them that I had so much work and I didn’t know what to do. One of my advisors would always tell me to breathe and that WE would work through it all and get it all done. Hearing that WE were going to tackle everything together reminded me that I had a team supporting me through everything. 

Often when concussions go on for more than a few weeks it can be hard to realize improvements you are making. Whether it be in the pool or in the classroom my teachers, athletic directors, and coaches made an effort to point out to me the improvements I was making, no matter how big or small they were and proved to me how I was accomplishing tasks that months ago I could not do. This constant support and reassurance allowed me to remain positive throughout it all and taught me to always see the improvements I was making rather than focusing on what I still couldn’t fully do YET. 

Teachers. They impact students more than you might think. They teach you, they help you, and most importantly they always have your best interest in mind. As I continue through college I constantly use the advice, strategies, and lessons that I learned from my high school teachers to navigate my busy and active college life as I still deal with symptoms daily. Without my high school teachers I wouldn’t know how to speak up and ask for help from my professors, know when it’s okay to stop, and know strategies to complete my heavy college workload. In fact, these teachers and role models have had such a positive impact on me that they have only made my desire to teach stronger so that I can one day provide the same level of support and guidance to my own students.