Claire Lapat’s Concussion Story
I am a 19 year old from Wynnewood, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh.
|Sport||Years Played||Highest Level|
|Track & Field||8||NCAA Club|
|Cross Country||5||NCAA Club|
I have had 7 or more diagnosed concussions and I believe at least 7 more undiagnosed concussions with my longest recovery being more than 12 months.
I got my first concussion when I was in fifth grade. It was 2009 and we were barely talking about concussions in pro athletes let alone kids. I was knocked out in gym class. I’ve had a headache everyday since. I had four more concussions before the concussion that changed everything. Three of the four concussions were soccer related: elbowed in the head, slide tackled, gym class accident, and just an unlucky collision with an opponent. My sixth concussion changed everything and should have been the end of my soccer career. I do not remember this hit but I know I got the concussion at soccer practice. I went to the doctor a few days later and was diagnosed with a concussion and a brain bleed (no surgery was required). I missed three months of school and ten months of soccer. I returned to play while still symptomatic because of how desperate I was to get back on the field. I had just started my freshman year of high school and my focus should have been on my academics but my focus was on soccer. I sustained another concussion or two that soccer season. Going into my sophomore year, soccer couldn’t be better. I was on an elite travel team and made varsity for school. Heading never scared me and I’d been heading since I was three years old. I became a go to player on my school team to head the ball even though I’m 5’3” and was competing for balls with girls six inches taller. Despite my coach telling me to bulk up, I could never break 119 lbs so I was much smaller than many of the girls I was playing against. This never bothered me when I was in the field. Just in the school season, I sustained seven concussions. And then while playing with my travel team in the winter, I sustained two more concussions. I was then forced to retire from soccer and contact sports that spring. That August, summer of 2015, I got a very severe concussion which was another suspected bleed. This concussion was so severe that I missed my entire junior year of high school. This was the most isolated I ever felt because my friends didn’t understand why I wasn’t able to go to school and cut me off. The next year I transferred schools and completed my junior and senior years. I sustained four concussions while at the second high school I attended.
I still suffer with all my symptoms. Doctors seem to help for a few months and then run out of ideas. I finally am seeing an amazing doctor at The Rothman Institute in Philadelphia. I was talking with him about my concussion history and mentioned that every time I headed the ball since I was ten I’d get a headache and not be able to see for a few seconds. And then after my bad concussion in eighth grade, I’d have that happen from simple collisions. He told me those were concussions and subconcussive blows. He also felt an artifact in my skull and suspected I’d had a skull fracture at some point. I’ll probably have my symptoms for the rest of my life but I’ve slowly but surely been learning how to manage and deal with the challenges my symptoms pose every day.
Symptoms I experienced through my recovery included headaches, nausea or vomitting, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, feeling like I was “in a fog”, drowsiness, more emotional, irritability, sadness, nervous or anxious, “pressure in head”, neck pain, dizziness, blurred vision, balance problems, feeling slowed down, don’t feel right, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering, fatigue or low energy, confusion, seizures, tremors and hallucinations.
Emotionally, the most frustrating aspect of my injury/recovery was the symptoms, particularly nausea or vomitting.
What I Would Have Done Differently
I wish I had been more honest about my symptoms and had not played through them. That’s why they’re so bad and not expected to go away.
Advice I Would Give To Others
Be patient. The brain heals in mysterious ways and at a different time frame for everyone. You will get better if you follow your doctor’s advice.
Don’t say things like “oh it will never be how it was”, try thinking “it’s different now, not better or worse”. I’m much better at time management and studying because I have to because of my fatigue and memory problems and so my study skills are much more advanced than most of my peers.
Back to other Student-Athlete Concussion Stories.