by Ella Malone, Concussion Recovery Advocate

I’m willing to bet that most of you have seen a sports game, from either physically being on the field, standing on the sideline, or watching it on TV. You also have probably witnessed players, maybe even relatives or loved ones, take blows to the head during play.  An injury like that can make observers feel powerless and afraid, especially when the decisions that follow are in the hands of someone else. However, there is one big thing that you can do before that very moment that can make all the difference in a player’s recovery–you can inform yourself about the risks and demand the same from the people in charge.

This is the reason that #BrainInjury awareness is so critical. If coaches, parents, and players are able to recognize and respond to a suspected concussion, chances of recovery increase drastically. In addition, if observers are also better informed about concussion prevention, we can work together to decrease the numbers of these injuries in the first place.

When a player returns to the field after a head hit, like I was encouraged to during a soccer game, the risk of brain damage increases and the effects of the concussion become exacerbated. This is why players must be pulled from games immediately, even if such an injury is only suspected. The exacerbation of symptoms usually means increased confusion and disorientation–which is exactly why those who attend games need to be able to recognize and respond to a potential concussion. When I “shook off” my concussion and played through the rest of the game that night, I could barely figure out where I was–recognizing and communicating that I seriously needed medical attention was out of the question. Players rely on the people around them for their safety, and this is never more true than during a brain injury.

I played 30 more minutes of soccer after sustaining a concussion, and only once the game ended was it a concern that I may have had a concussion. If those around me had been able to recognize the risk more quickly, maybe my recovery could have taken weeks instead of years. Awareness will by no means stop concussions from happening, but it may help reduce the number of concussions and reduce those returning to the field right after they occur. It is a step in the right direction to help limit the number of concussions we see today in schools, colleges, and on professional teams.

This long road to recovery has had its fair share of up and downs. I wish my community would have known more about concussions as it would have resulted in the definite recognition of mine. This is why I am teaming up with COVD to get this information out into the world. I hope that, instead of hearing it from doctors and scientists, maybe hearing it from someone who has dealt with a concussion will drive home the truth and highlight the realities of this problem. By making those around us aware, we can get a handle on the issues surrounding concussions in sports. My hope is that this message will prevent other athletes from experiencing something like what happened to me. Please help us spread awareness about concussions by sharing this story and the following posts in this series all March long!

Have you or a loved one suffered a concussion, or any blow to the head, either on the field or off it? Don’t just shake it off–Locate a Doctor near you who can help and learn more from COVD!