In the late 1990s, there was very limited talk on concussions. Now, almost 20 years later, I am in the thick of one of the largest sport controversies in this country—Is it safe to play collision and contact sports if you have received a concussion or multiple concussions?
For the last 18 years, I have stood in the trenches of college, high school and youth sports trying to protect and keep my athletes safe as a Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer. I have seen and evaluated over 100 concussions and lost an athlete to heaven after his silent struggle in life due to repeated concussions.
It is through my mental pain, guilt and determination that I have dedicated my time to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE Hope Foundation is a nonprofit and was established after my athlete, Zac Easter, 24, took his own life after journaling for years about the physical, mental and emotional pain that one endures after suffering multiple concussions. Zac wrote his life story as he started to decline.
An entry from one of Zac’s journals said, “After having more than five documented concussions and numerous more undocumented concussions, I began suffering from constant and severe headaches, slurred speech, blurred vision, loss of balance, brain tremors, and dementia, among other physical and mental ailments. I began to feel this disease strip away my pride and determination and fill my life with hopelessness.”
As the deterioration in his brain continued, Zac found no doctors that could point him in the right direction or that would acknowledge concussions could have been a reason for his declining health.
Zac was awarded Iowa Soldier of the Year in 2013, graduated from Grandview College with a 3.7 GPA in May 2015 and ended his life December 19th, 2015.
Zac left this note in one of his many journals: “I ask anyone who ever has to read this to please help spread the word about how dangerous concussions are and to try and help support the effort to make football a safer sport. I’m sure someone out there will read this and realize that he has gone through some of the same similar stuff as me. Whoever you are, I beg you to get help and don’t live the self-destructive life that I did.”
Every year, approximately 52,000 deaths occur from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and an estimated 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related TBI occur each year. At least 5.3 million Americans, 2 percent of the U.S. population, currently live with disabilities resulting from TBI.
Concussions don’t only affect the athletic population. Military men and women, skateboarders, car accidents, and bike riding are at the top of the list for TBI.
Managing a concussion or TBI from the initial onset it critical. One of the most serious signs of a concussion or TBI is when someone says, “ I just don’t feel right.” Here are some common signs and symptoms of a concussion that should not be ignored
- Ears Ringing
- Sensitivity to Light and Sound
- Changes in Behaviors and Speech
- Blurred Vision
- Difficulty Concentrating
- No energy
- Unstable Emotions
- Changes in Reaction Time
- Slurred Speech
- Balance Issues
If you think you have sustained a TBI, you should be seen by your Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer and/or your medical professional. Here are some helpful tips to start managing your symptoms:
- Only use Tylenol after 48 hours
- Apply ice to the head and neck for comfort
- Eat a light meal (no spicy foods or alcohol)
- Go to sleep (don’t wake them up every hour)
- Rest (no strenuous physical activity)
- Wear sunglasses
- Don’t drive a car or other motorized vehicle
- Don’t use a computer, text, watch TV, play video games or read
If you know someone who is struggling with brain health or Zac’s story reminds you of a close friend or family member, please contact me, Sue Wilson, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will guide you to the correct team of medical professionals that can start your healing process. Our goal is to provide resources and hope for all those involved in the aftermath of TBI. To learn more about Zac’s story and how you can help please visit http://www.cte-hope.org/.
Submitted by: Sue Wilson MA,. ATC/L., PES., CHHC, Co-Founder of CTE-Hope
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