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Welcome to the Official Website of Concussion-U

We created this website to keep athletes, parents, and coaches up to date with what we are doing here at Concussion-U.

In the menu bar, there are several links that you can view at your leisure to learn more about the Concussion-U team. We would like to thank Parachute Canada for providing us with the latest information about concussion mechanism, signs and symptoms, management, and return-to-play guidelines. This information can also be found in the links above. We have put this educational material on our website to serve as resource for anyone who wants to learn more about concussions.

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I have struggled, and it has made me stronger.

 

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Molly MacDermaid is a former hockey player, and was one of the first athletes we featured in our Faces of Concussion newsletter. Thanks to the courage shown by some of you in sharing you story, she has decided to elaborate on her battle with concussions, and how they have, at times, wreaked emotional havoc on her. Mental illness can be difficult to discuss, but Molly rose to the occasion. She has asked us to share this with you, and for that, we are grateful. Thanks Molly!

-Concussion-U team 

 

Concussion-U has been such a difference maker for me. Every time I see a story they share, I am filled with hope and optimism for the future, and I am filled with gratitude for those who are brave enough to share their stories and own up to how concussions have changed their lives, none more so than the recent article by Alex MacAskill. With the hope of encouraging others to share their path to recovery, I have tried to put my own personal experiences into the following words.

At the time I wrote my own bio I was scared to include the words “mental illness”. I was scared to tell the world that I was suffering from major depression. The implication of the words so misunderstood that I feared the judgment that came with the truth. What I failed to realize was that it was only by telling the truth, and admitting (to myself and others) that I wasn’t fine that I could truly begin to recover. I was seriously struggling and it took the darkest of times to help me realize that the first step to recovery was deciding to start talking, start telling the truth. A concussion completely flipped my world upside down. One day I was genuinely happy playing the game I loved and six months later I was hanging up my skates and saying goodbye to the game that had taught me so much, all before I had even reached my senior year of high school. The game that had given me confidence, taught me how to work with others, that sometimes (despite your best efforts) the outcome wouldn’t be in your favor, would no longer be in my life. It was devastating; losing hockey broke me. A downward spiral of self-pity, fear and anger became my new normal.

About 8 months after my last concussion, I began to notice a shift in my emotional symptoms. I was no longer just feeling sad, it was the kind of sadness that literally made you feel like you couldn’t get out of bed, like invisible chains holding you down. It was the unbearable feeling of emptiness that came just as frequently as my headaches. It was feeling like you were a ghost in your own life, just going through the motions. I felt like I existed but I had ceased to live. It was a never-ending nightmare that I couldn’t escape no matter what I did to kill the gut wrenching pain of nothing. So I did the only thing I knew how to do, I sucked it up and I tried to run from the pain, but all that did was cause more pain and prolong my already lengthy recovery. I was impulsive, I was reckless, I made a lot of bad choices, I hurt my family and friends because I couldn’t and wouldn’t accept the hard realities of life without hockey. I felt like my losses were trivialized because even though I couldn’t play hockey anymore, it’s not like I had lost my ability to walk or I was condemned to a wheelchair. To the outside world I still had everything I had before, and in the eyes of most there wasn’t anything really different about me.

Advice is cheap and some would tell me to do something new, make the best of it, but I didn’t see it that way. My losses in the grand scheme of things were minimal, but to me they were enormous. My reaction times were off and I couldn’t remember things the way I used to. When I worked at the golf course pro shop during the summer I would be on the phone one-minute writing names down for a tee time and, by the time I hung up, I would forget all the names. The changes for me were not minimal; they were catastrophic and they were debilitating to my every day life. For a long while my injury defined me. However, as time went on and I fluctuated between periods of bad and periods of awful, I finally started telling the truth. I began seeking help and I started accepting the past. I tried to understand my actions. I tried to let go. I tried to come to terms with what devastated me and then I started talking about it. At first I couldn’t tell anyone other than my psychologist so I started writing about it, and for Christmas this past year I mustered up the courage to finally share all that I had written with my parents. Since then I have felt so much more accepted and understood and although my parents hadn’t been dealt the same cards as I, they were there through all the doctor’s appointments, and the night’s I cried myself to sleep. My parents and my entire family have been remarkable through it all. During the times I gave up on myself, their faith in me never faltered they were always there to encourage me through it, to love me even when I didn’t love myself. Mental illness has plagued me for the past three years, but for the first time I am looking up and the good days are outnumbering the bad; it’s truly amazing to be able to finally let go and find some closure through all this pain.

When I read the stories published by those who came before me they often conclude their stories with the admonition to seek help. There is nothing to be ashamed about and I have always wanted to thank them for their honesty, but I was too frightened to admit I am one of them. Today I am not scared, well maybe a little, but I am optimistic that while my recovery is still unfinished, I have found the conviction that I will make it through the dark days because I have my family and friends, and I have a source of inspiration from organizations like Concussion-U. I may have fallen and tumbled a few times, but I have found a way to get back up. I have found a way to smile despite heartbreak, and I think that’s all we can ask for. I have always liked the phrase “Nothing defines you”, but sometimes I wonder if that’s true. Concussions and mental illness seem to have defined me over the past few years, but in the end, they’ve only made me stronger. Oh, what a beautiful way to be defined!

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Help Make Sports Safer #HeadsUp

-Molly

 

If you would like to get in contact with Alex or reach out to our group feel free to send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca. 

My Concussion Story

“I wrote this reflection after reading Brad Yetman’s story. I am a University Lacrosse Player and former Hockey Player from Nova Scotia. The reflection I wrote relates to #BellLetsTalk and focuses on stigma around concussions and their affect on mental health.” – Alex

Concussion-U is honoured to have Alex share his story with us.

Alex
Alex MacAskill
4th year Psychology student
Saint Mary’s University

I remember growing up and being a physical player in every sport that I played, priding myself in working hard and playing with heart regardless of how battered I felt. Often, caution was set aside for intensity, and at the time I did not see a problem with that. I remember a number of occasions as a kid getting laid out on the ice (we’ve all been there) and skating back to the bench thinking Wow, I just got my bell rung”.

BELL RUNG

That’s what they used to call it. Now, looking back at this I wonder if it was the start of a long battle that myself and many others are facing later on in life. The self contagion curse that follows after your brain rocks just a little too hard for your skull to handle.

I would go on to get my “Bell Rung” a considerable amount of times in the years that followed, with my only real admittance of this issue occurring at the end of 2015. In saying that, I think it is safe to say that long before I understood the full implications of head injuries, they affected me in negative and terrifying ways. My struggle with mental illness has only been catapulted by these nasty injuries, and I am not sure I would have had to fight half of these demons if they had never occurred.

Today, you’ll catch me saying that I’d rather break an arm or a leg, or sustain any other physical injury than be faced with another concussion. My reasoning for that is this: concussions are a confusing, frightening, and delusional injury. They affect the way you rationalize things; your decision-making; and your relationships with your friends, your family, and yourself. They pollute your days with the inconsistency of not knowing when the next headache will occur, when you’ll lash out at someone, or when you’ll just feel like everything’s falling apart. I believe our perspective in life shapes the way we feel and the way we approach our adversities. That is another reason why these concussions can prove so deadly. In my experience, I have had days where everything is fine, the sun is shining, I feel active, included, and awake; but there are also days where my vision blurs, my head aches, and my mind can’t harness anything more than negativity and despair. If you go to a doctor after a blow to the head, they tell you the same thing every time. “You have a concussion. How Serious? Mild to moderate. Go home, lock yourself in your room, don’t read, don’t watch tv, avoid loud noises, bright lights, stressful situations, or anything intoxicating.” That is when the month from hell starts, and that has been the reason for my denial at times, delaying my recovery under the stubbornness of not admitting that I needed help, or that rest was in my best interest. This is the all too familiar four or five day buffer where I lied to myself and said I was fine, reasoning that I could not afford to take another break from life, no matter how much the struggle persisted. I thought about how I didn’t want to explain to my family and friends that I couldn’t go to class, couldn’t go to work, couldn’t do anything except sit in my room and stare at the ceiling.

That is why the misunderstanding around head injuries and the stigma of mental health is so dangerous, and so counterproductive to the very fabric of our well being. I have seen eyes roll and heard voices fade from those that cannot relate, because it is hard for them to emphasize with such a mysterious and disturbing injury. During these times of recovery, when I have felt the best version of myself, it was always due to my attitude, my support system, and knowing that there will come a day when the fog will clear and I can concentrate, communicate, and commute my way through life with little to no impairment. It has been the comforting voice from a family member that has said: “rest up, I understand what you’re going through, the most important thing is your health right now.” Or the sympathetic hand of a friend reaching out and telling me that if I need anything not to hesitate in speaking up. The sad thing is, I can count the people on two hands that have shown this understanding and empathetic attitude towards my battle with concussions.

For those on the outside, it is often harder for them to sympathize, and that is understandable. In saying this, I also recognize that some of the support I’ve received has been in the form of tough love, and I think that’s another teller of the effect these injuries can have on a person. I used to black out and pick fights in bars because I couldn’t control my emotions, only to suffer another blow and find myself back to square one again. There were days or weeks where I’d turn to a bottle to avoid the sobering realization that comes with knowing you’re concussed, and in doing so, only inflicting more of a struggle upon myself and my recovery. It was so easy for people that could not relate to my battle to write this behaviour off as irresponsible and idiotic, and I’m sure from the outside looking in it definitely appeared that way. I crippled relationships, offended strangers, and got myself into almost irreversibly negative situations. I’ve made a lot of memories during my four years of university, and an active social and athletic life is something I was not always ready to sacrifice in order to make a full recovery.

 

alexmSo fast forward to now, as I sit here writing this reflection, just under a month from when I had my revelation. I am sitting in my room, about to cap off a long day of studying for my impending midterms. It has only been two weeks since I finished writing my fall semester exams that were extended because of my injury in October; when I got my “Bell Rung” playing for my university’s lacrosse team. My head hurts and my nerves are acting up, and my concentration remains a little spotty.

Although absorbing information is nowhere near as hard as it was two months earlier, I am ready for the ringing to stop. Permanently. I am ready to stop ignoring the symptoms of these concussions, and start making sensible, cautious, and considerable choices regarding the way I live my life. That bell can only be rung so many times before it starts to wake you up.

I am lucky the cost of my naivety has not been higher. I am lucky that the last blow and the way it affected me was finally enough for me to take a step back, evaluate myself, and start really considering how these injuries could be harming my future. I am lucky for the saving grace of the people close to me, their undying support, faith, and attempt at understanding, even if it wasn’t always clear to them what was going on. To these people, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation for the way you have stood by me and looked out for my best interests. You will all hold a place in my heart indefinitely. For anyone else dealing with a head injury, consecutive head injuries, or mental health issues in general, please feel free to reach out and share your experiences, with me or anyone else you feel comfortable talking to. Do not wait as long as I did to admit to yourself that there’s a risk involved with acting recklessly or playing a physical sport for longer than you should. No matter how competitive of a person you are, put the rest of your life first, and adjust your choices with that in mind. If you are struggling, tell someone about it, and if they are puzzled, refer them to this page for some clarity. I have learned that regardless of how hard something is, dealing with it alone will only make it that much harder. That is why initiatives such as #BellLetsTalk day or the platform that Concussion-U has put in place are so important. It gives athletes or anyone else dealing with this issue a chance to speak out and tell their stories. It helps others that are struggling with the mystery and confusion of concussions deal with their symptoms, and gain some perspective on the matter. If this story helps at least one person, aids in their recovery, and allows them to take the time they need to heal or open up about what their going through than it’s worth it. The insight I have gained from speaking up and talking to others who have battled this injury has proven invaluable, and not being afraid to reach out to the people close to me has made all the difference.

By spreading awareness through the stories here at Concussion-U, I hope others can find solace in knowing they’re not fighting their battles alone.  Through increasing this awareness for concussion safety, we can ensure that some of the fog surrounding this issue is lifted and that young athletes can become more informed about what is going on behind the scenes of their injury to help aid them in their recovery. I hope that this will help instill a better frame of mind in people for helping them deal with their head injuries, and that it ends some of the stigma surrounding an injury that is as invisible as it is deadly.

concussionU logo for shirts 2014

Let’s Help Make Sports Safer for Youth #HeadsUp

Alex

 

If you would like to get in contact with Alex or reach out to our group feel free to send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca. 

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Alex MacAskill.

Alex’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Alex MacAskill

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

News

Concussion-U is thrilled to have joined forces with medical students from Dalhousie University. One of their founding members, Ben Cameron, was kind enough to share his experience with concussions. As we have said before, writing about these injuries takes a great deal of courage, and we appreciate him doing so. We hope you enjoy reading his perspective as much as we did!


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Ben Cameron: 4th year medical student at Dalhousie University

My name is Ben Cameron and I am a fourth-year medical student at Dalhousie University. Before attending medical school, I spent a few years playing Junior hockey. In honesty, I spent a lot more time watching from the bench, penalty box, and stands than I ever did playing. Here is my concussion story.


Bang! Not a noise but a feeling.
Bang! From your head to your toes.
Bang! From your skin to your bones.
“What the **** was that?”

I remembered thinking, prone in a black world. Slowly, my senses returned. I could hear the rumblings of a scrum just beyond me. My arms and legs tingled. I could taste metal and feel a warm liquid running from my nose to my upper lip.  My head didn’t hurt. It numbed, it fogged, it clouded, but it didn’t hurt. A cold embrace from the ice below offered no comfort.

It was March 8th, 2011, and, although I didn’t know it at the time, those were last few moments I ever spent on the ice playing competitive hockey. It was Game 2 of a first round playoff series. I was playing for the Pictou County Crushers against the Bridgewater Lumberjacks, in Bridgewater. Early in the second  period there was a faceoff in our own zone. I had my head down, sprinting to the far boards in hopes of getting in position and facing up ice. An errant pass left my defenseman’s stick and slid past me, at least a foot from stick. Head down, I attempted to turn and follow the puck, but before I could, Bang! 

Hit Ben Cameron

Click on the image above to watch a clip of Ben’s injury

I stayed on the ice for a few moments. I was typically a pretty ‘tough’ player. “Don’t lay on the ice unless you’re actually injured.” That was a threat I had heard from countless people in my life that respected the game enough to distain those who faked injuries in an attempt to guilt referees into dispensing major penalties. “I’m not faking anything,” I thought. I knew that was the hardest I had ever been hit, something wasn’t right. I was fearful of what would happen when I stood up. After a few moments on the ice, some attention from our training staff, and some complimentary sprays of water from classy individuals on the Bridgewater bench, I decided it was time I should attempt to rise to my feet.

The instant I tilted my head from a horizontal to an upright position, a rush of blood poured out of my nose, all over my helmet and visor, and down the front of my jersey and shoulder pads. I was able to stand, although my legs felt foreign beneath me. With a quick wink and a grin toward my opponents, I slowly made my way off the ice under my own power. As I sat down in the dressing room, I quickly ‘recovered’. Almost as fast as the cloud came, it was gone. For the next 30 minutes, I couldn’t believe how good I felt. Looking back, my behavior during that time was odd, but I didn’t have any pain so I assumed I was fine. The only thing that kept me from returning to the ice that night, and potentially suffering a devastating second blow to the head, was a persistent laceration across my forehead that would not close.

Eventually, a doctor showed up to suture the wound. As he began applying his trade, the symptoms began. The room spun, my head pounded, and I felt like I was going to vomit. When he was finished, he asked me to count backwards by 7’s from 28. “21 … 14 … 21?” The room went black. I regained consciousness quickly, and proceeded to gag over a garbage can before crying hysterically. My head was pounding and my nose was still leaking blood. I was taken to the hospital, cleared with a CT scan, diagnosed with a concussion, and sent back on the bus headed for Pictou County. I tried to watch the tiny television screen above, but it made both my headache and nausea absolutely unbearable. I had to hold my nose for two-and-a-half hours before it stopped bleeding. It was the worst ride of my life.

Ben Cameron 2 (1 of 1)

The next week was spent on a couch listening to the television, because watching it was excruciating for my headache. I purposely slept as much as possible because that was the only thing that would relieve the pain. To my surprise, the emotional and cognitive symptoms were as bad or worse than the physical pain. I left the hospital being told I had a concussion; nothing was broken; I couldn’t play hockey until the headaches went away; I needed to take a week off school; and follow-up with a physician to have the sutures removed. The next physician I saw told me concussions can take anywhere from two weeks to two months to heal. “Two months? The playoffs will be over in two months. This is my last season; I can’t miss all of playoffs.” The emotional symptoms worsened.

​I was a wreck. I was stressed and anxious. I was terrified that everything I did would be a step in the wrong direction and would delay my return. At the same time, I was ‘tough’ and had a reputation to uphold. I eventually returned to classes at St. Francis Xavier University. The first day back I remember climbing the large stairs in the Student Union Building; immediately my head was pounding, I was out of breath and sweating buckets. The fluorescent lighting in the laboratories seemed to enter through my eyes and incinerate my brain. But the doctor’s note had only allowed me a week off school, and finals were within a month. As stubborn and ‘tough’ as I was with hockey I always knew I was a much better student, and good school grades were eventually going to pay my bills. I studied like nothing was wrong even though pages had to be read and re-read, and my brain felt like it was trying to bust free from my suddenly miniature skull.

​“Symptom-free for twenty-four hours” is what they told me. That’s what I needed to be before I could lightly exercise. I thought I knew what that meant. The first day I had only a mild headache, I went for a 20-minute light walk that evening. Around midnight, I awoke from sleep and ran to the bathroom so I could vomit. I had never been so scared in my life.

​A month and a day after the catastrophic blow, my team was eliminated in the league finals. I was in the dressing room, crying. The realization that I would never play meaningful, competitive hockey again was worse than any of my headaches. I had made several more attempts to come back, but each time I underwent light activities, it resulted in extreme headaches and nausea. Now it was over. Now I knew I would never come back.

​Within a week I wrote all of my final exams. Somehow, through the headaches, nausea, emotional lability and difficulties with concentration, I was able to pass all courses with acceptable grades. I thought it was over. A week later I went for family skate and the symptoms returned. I waited another month before attempting to exercise again and luckily I was fine.

​People like to ask how long the symptoms lasted for. Honestly, I have no idea. The physical pain with exercise lasted for two months. With that being said, I don’t ever remember having headaches before the injury; now, they seem to come and go freely with the slightest hint of fatigue and/or dehydration. That June I went on to write the MCAT entrance exam for medical school. Despite being medically cleared from the concussion, and even though I eventually did ok on the test, I found it almost impossible to sit still and study. The words wouldn’t stick. I had no motivation and felt depressed. My mind wouldn’t stay on the task in front of me. Of course, this all came in the context of retirement from the game I loved and the dissolution of a 6-year relationship with a previous partner, so maybe it wasn’t due to the concussion. Or maybe it was.

​To this day, the mythical cloud that seems to surround concussion amazes me. I was not a medical student when all of this occurred, yet I was a somewhat intelligent young hockey player with an interest in studying the human body. If there is an athlete who should recognize the signs, symptoms and severity of mild traumatic brain injuries, it should have been me. But I knew almost nothing. What does that say about the quality of education provided to athletes, coaches, parents and officials about these potentially devastating injuries? What does it say about leaving the responsibility of recovery in the hands of near-sighted athletes determined to be ‘tough’ and return to the games they love?

Sometimes, when driving alone, I will glance in the rearview mirror and catch a glimpse of the small, shiny scar in the middle of my forehead. Cormac McCarthy once wrote, “Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real”. Every time the light catches my forehead at a certain angle, I am taken back to that night in Bridgewater, the cold water being sprayed on me, the colder ice beneath me, and the warm taste of blood. I am thankful for that wound that would not close. The death of my hockey career that night has allowed me to continue living my life, pursue my dream of obtaining a Doctor of Medicine degree, and contribute to Concussion-U to bring awareness to athletes, coaches, parents, and officials. Some people say life is a game; let us help you avoid getting caught with your head down.

Ben

concussionU logo for shirts 2014

Let’s help make sports safer for youth #HeadsUp

If you would like to share your story on http://www.concussionu.ca send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Ben Cameron, who is a member of the Dal Concussion-U group (check out their Facebook page @ Dal Concussion-U.)

Ben’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Ben Cameron

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Kayla Blackmore.

Kayla’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Kayla Blackmore

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.

Concussion-U Conference Update

Concussion Network

The Concussion-U team spent the last two weeks networking with students, researchers, policy makers, physicians and parents. We attended the Atlantic Collaborative for Injury Prevention (ACIP) Conference in Halifax and the Canadian Federation for Neurological Sciences (CFNS) Congress in Toronto. This was a great opportunity to learn from some of the leaders in the field of concussion and share our ideas. We hope to have similar opportunities in the future.

ACIP Conference

Graeme Campbell, David Bradbury-Squires, Justin Murphy, Matt Eagles, Maria Powell (Left to Right) at the ACIP Conference 2015 in Halifax, Nova Scotia

While in Halifax, we spent time learning about risk management and injury prevention. We attended this conference to increase awareness about our group and concussion education. We really enjoyed our time in Halifax and hope to attend the ACIP Conference next year.


While in Toronto, we had the opportunity to meet some of the leading experts in concussion research. Here is Concussion-U’s Matt Eagles with ThinkFirst Canada Founder and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Laureate, Dr. Charles Tator.

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Matt Eagles and Dr. Charles Tator at the CNSF Congress 2015 in Toronto, Ontario.

We also presented the preliminary results of our most recent study on the effectiveness of a concussion education program amongst a cohort of Bantam and Midget hockey players. The findings of our study were of great interest to many physicians in the field of Neurology and Neurosurgery. We had a great experience in Toronto and hope to attend the CNSF Congress next year.

Checkout the link below to watch Matt Eagles giving our poster presentation

Thanks for reading!

concussionU logo for shirts 2014

Let’s help make sports safer for youth #HeadsUp

If you have any questions or comments send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca

My Life in the Quiet Room

Hockey is a great sport. It is exciting, challenging, and intense. However, sometimes the dressing room can be a scary place, especially if you feel like something is wrong. As someone who played against Brad, I can personally attest to his toughness. I admire his strength for writing this, and I would encourage anyone who is experiencing similar issues to follow his advice. On behalf of all of us at Concussion-U, I offer a heartfelt thanks to Brad for sharing his story. Hopefully it will help provide a light for someone who is going through a tough time.

Matt Eagles


Concussion-U is happy to share this story written by Brad Yetman: My life in the Quiet Room

Brad 2 (1 of 1)

Brad Yetman: 3rd year Psychology Student at Memorial University, former QMJHL and CIS defensemen.


Where do I begin?
Do I begin from the start, from the middle or the end?
Does it really matter where I start? And why tell it now?

This kind-of mini “tell-all” story of my ongoing experiences with mental and physical anguish has caused me an inordinate amount of stress, as it is a story that many do not know and one that many would not understand. So maybe the point of me writing this is not only to aid people’s understanding of the impact that concussions can have on one’s life, but to try and help them to understand certain aspects of mental illness as well.

2010-06-10-01-40-47-4c11239ef26d0Brad_Yetman_6-3

As I sit and type this it is hard not to come to tears thinking back on the years of hardship that I suffered, and the issues I continue to endure and struggle with. So, in short, my name is Brad Yetman; I am a former defensemen in the QMJHL (2007-2011) and CIS (2012-2013). I also had a tryout for the Under-18 Canadian National Team in 2008. Why is that important? Many of my days of playing hockey should have been taken from me due to concussions and their lingering effects; however I tend to succumb to the withdrawal from my addiction to this great game.

A concussion, by definition, is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Many sources focus primarily on the physical symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of balance, impaired coordination, and memory loss, but these overlook a crucial aspect: the mental symptoms. It is this emotional impact of concussions that have forever changed my life.

Upon starting the 2014 fall semester at Memorial University, I was cleaning up some old school books and notepads when I stumbled across a crumpled, stained, lime green Hilroy exercise book. I opened the pages to see notes of symptoms that I was experiencing during a couple of my stints on the injured list with a brain injury, and it all came flooding back to me. The days seamlessly ran into nights. The minutes, hours, days, and weeks combined together into one long, realistic nightmare. The darkness of my mind seemed to envelop me like a beast of the wild, marking a territory that grew larger and larger. The darkness was growing inside me, and I did not know how to stop it. I used to explain it as running down a pitch black tunnel with no light at the end. I did not see any positivity. I battled depression.

Depression is a difficult concept to truly understand as it affects different people in different ways. It is difficult for me to write that I have battled it, but it is the truth. It has affected me in ways that many family, friends, teammates, and coaches never knew or understood. I cannot even begin to count the number of times my parents or brothers have asked me what was wrong. I never had a true explanation or answer. My only two responses were to lash out or to break down. It was inevitable. My emotions were a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, or twists and turns; no one knew what was coming next.

I spoke to counsellors, psychologists, team staff, teammates, family, but I could not seem to get a handle on my emotional state. I would break down crying in practices or even during games, games watched by NHL scouts. I would begin to get emotional and was not able to explain why. Why did I not take my time, and fully heal? Did I rush back to play before I should have? Sometimes I did, for the simple love of the game, and that is where I was wrong. I was too impatient.

Brad Hockey Game (1 of 1)

Concussions are a silent killer, especially if not properly healed. That is where most kids, athletes, men, women, parents, staff, doctors, and the general public, need to be educated. In order to lay out a proper route of rehabilitation and recovery, every individual involved needs to be informed. Of course, it is on the player to be completely honest with themselves and their team as well.

When I suffered my string of concussions, there was nowhere near as much media exposure about them as there is today, and maybe that is why I continued to suffer. I pushed myself back to play, got hurt, took two weeks off, and went back to play. A couple games later I’d be hurt again, and again I’d be forced to take a couple weeks off. Was it the trainer or doctor’s fault for putting me back in? Absolutely not. I said to myself I was good to go. I trained hard, and pushed myself to get back to a state where I felt as close to 100% as I could. However, that wasn’t my true motivation to get back in the lineup. I needed hockey to take my mind off of the continuing depressive state I was feeling. On top of that, being a 17 year old away from home and missing family did not help. Hockey was for me, as it is for most, a sanctuary. It was an escape of all life’s problems. However, that turned out to be a double-edged sword. I tried to use hockey, and being at the rink, to escape my depression. This was unsuccessful; the depressive beast followed me no matter the situation and decided to set up shop in my sanctuary.

I did test, after test, after test, to determine how my physical symptoms were progressing and the recovery of the cognitive aspects of my brain, but how do I, a 17 year old, go about expressing the emotional anguish that I was encountering? One of the hardest things in the world a person can do is getting something off their chest. Trying to tell a certain someone that they love them or miss them is hard enough. Never mind that it was impossible for me to accurately portray the emotions I was feeling.

It is a difficult concept. Extremely. Here I sit, a 23 year old, almost seven years since I first battled those signs of depression, spreading my story to everyone out there. Am I weak for providing some of my darkest times as public knowledge? No. Somewhere out there, there is someone who is experiencing the same thing that I experienced, and I want them to know that it is ok. You are a special person, and are dealing with something that you cannot deal with on your own. Just as with a concussion, where you rely on your trainers, doctors, and coaching staff for guidance, the same goes for depression. You must rely on those around you, be it friends, family, neighbours, or a stranger willing to lend an ear. There is someone out there who can help you, and will be there for you. Never feel alone. Talk to someone. Anyone. Just do not keep what you are feeling bottled up inside. I have found the positivity and light at the end of my tunnel. It is there I assure you, no matter how dark the tunnel may be, you can find yours too.

Brad

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If you would like to share your story on http://www.concussionu.ca send us an email at concussionu@mun.ca

Faces of Concussion

Here at Concussion-U we think it is important for people to have the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Faces of Concussion was designed to empower young athletes and allow them to tell their story – a story that is becoming all too common. This month we are featuring Justin Murphy.

Justin’s Story

ConcussionU Blog Justin Murphy

If you would like to share YOUR story, send us a message at concussionu@mun.ca! We would love to hear from you.