Rachel’s story is a cautionary tale that teaches us the importance of the Four Rs: Recognize, Respond, Rest and Reassess. After her first hit to the side of her face during a game on September 22, 2010 which produced headaches and dizziness, she continued to play with severe symptoms for the next three days. The First Three Rs tell us that she did not Recognize the hit to be a concussion, that she did not Respond and leave the game and that she did not followup with Rest. Would the outcome have been different if Rachel had known about concussions? I am sure she wonders herself.
My name is Rachel Abrams and I am a junior in college. In high school I played soccer, softball and basketball. I went to college and was set out to play soccer and softball there. To anyone else September 22 is any other day, for me it is forever etched in my mind; I call it the devil’s day. I never thought anything of concussions; I was uneducated of this injury. I was one of the goalkeeper’s on the women’s soccer team and was having the time of my life. Then came September 22, 2010, when my life changed.
I received my first concussion on this day, during one of our soccer games at college. It was during one of our games, I was in goal and I received a corner kick from the opposing team. I misjudged it a little bit, caught it against the side of my face and continued playing. After the game I had headaches, I didn’t think anything of it and practiced the next three days, even with the headaches getting worse. Our athletic trainer then diagnosed me with a concussion and I was kept from playing. Then it got worse, my symptoms got worse, now experiencing nausea and increased headaches. I went to the emergency room at a local hospital where they did a MRI or CAT scan, I don’t remember exactly. From there on my symptoms got worse, with the addition of fatigue and I had to see a neurologist just to be completely checked out. I was suffering from fatigue, headaches, nausea, and had a slight hearing loss in one of my ears. My neurologist diagnosed me with a mild concussion and said I was out indefinitely. I had to take a week off of going to classes and in the next few weeks I was diagnosed with post concussion syndrome.
For the next nine months I experienced severe headaches every day, almost all day long. I couldn’t do any physical activity for about 90% of that time. I had many symptoms, most of all it was headaches. I was also nauseous almost every day for the first three or four months. I was always tired; I experienced a great deal of fatigue, but could never sleep. I had a lot of memory issues and I had a little bit of balance problems. I was on many different medications during these months, probably fifteen or more. At one time, I was taking twelve pills a day, a few in the morning but most at night. The medications were for all of my different symptoms. I was taking sleeping pills that could have side effects of hallucinations, which of course I had when I would wake up at night. My neurologist and I were trying all kinds of medications; with stopping ones that weren’t working I had to deal with rebounding. With going through this for so long, I believe I became slightly depressed because these headaches mess with your mind and you don’t think they will ever end. I had some nights where I would pray that either the headaches were gone in the morning or that I wouldn’t wake up. I finally got through this; I believe that I was finally 95% headache free by mid June.
I decided to go back to playing soccer in the fall of 2011, with headgear to protect my head. September 22, 2011 came around; I was warming up in goal, my teammate took a shot, it hit the side post, came back and hit me on the side of my head. I became very fatigued and slow thinking, I was diagnosed with a concussion. I then went back on some medication. I experienced a lot more memory problems and I had very bad balance. I began taking ImPACT tests. I started off doing horrible on these tests and almost always came out of them slow thinking, with a bad headache and completely exhausted.
This time around I dealt with the concussion better, I knew how to make the headaches decrease. I came off of the medications within the first few months. This concussion also lasted around 9 months also but I finally got through it. My neurologist and I figured out that I have probably had at least four very mild concussions before these two but never thought about it. So it is determined that I have had six concussions in my life. The hardest but easiest decision I have ever made was to never play competitive sports again. My sports career is over, it was hard to deal with but I can’t risk my health, which is most important.
How am I now? I still get headaches at least once a week, my balance is much better, I have a slight memory problem and I am not on any medication. I am a stronger person, having gone through this. What I want to do is educate people and support people who may be going through something like this. There is no reason that concussions should be put on the back burner.