Erik Andersson’s Concussion Story
For some, not knowing is bothersome. For others, not being able to explain is bothersome. But when the two coincide with one another, the results aren’t always the best…
The challenging thing to fully comprehend is that as time evolves, things change; research is conducted, new discoveries are made, and what you were once told no longer stands true. In 2010, I suffered my first concussion. It was my first shift of the game and I was skating down the left hand side (lefty) and I made a pass across my body to my teammate skating towards the net. Following the pass the next thing I remember is getting back to our bench and being told that we had just scored. Not too shabby: one shift, one point. The only problem: the gap between when I made the pass and when I got to the bench. That was when I realized I had probably suffered from a concussion, something I had heard about but had yet to experience. Memory problems, little yellow stars floating around, and a tingling feeling in my eyes. I decided that it was a good idea to get off the ice and hit the showers. After a day or two of “concussion like symptoms”, I saw a doctor, and sure enough concussion #1 was checked off the list.
In contact sport you are constantly getting hit; and as we all know hockey is a contact sport. A puck goes into the corner, and you throw a hit against the defenseman… get a pass on the boards, and the defenseman comes and hits you. It’s a game full of you hit me, I’ll hit you. You don’t think much of any hit in particular because they all feel the same, but what you don’t realize is that slowly, they are all adding up. As I was skating across our defensive zone in the 3rd period, a forward came lunging at me at our own the blue line. Rather than passing the puck and skating around him, I attempted to keep the puck to myself and skate around him. Bad choice. Concussion #2 checked off.
But this one wasn’t like the first one. I didn’t forget what happened, my eyes didn’t start twitching, and there were no yellow stars floating around. I didn’t think anything of it. Yeah, my head hurt a little the following day, but I told myself that if I took it easy for a few days, I’d wake up one morning and it’ll be like nothing happened. I mean, how are you expected to tell someone that you have a concussion on a Tuesday if you felt fine on Monday, and hadn’t played a hockey game since Saturday? The answer is you can’t. No one would believe you, and no one does. And if you can’t explain what you feel like no one is going to be able to tell you what’s wrong. Keep in mind that this was around the time when people started taking concussions more seriously after the death of three NHL enforcers who had suffered numerous traumatic brain injuries.
At this time I began to learn that what you were told 3 years prior about concussions no longer stands true. You are told that symptoms might last for only 2 weeks, or symptoms might last 2 months. No one knows. And your symptoms might be different than last time. This time rather than having headaches, I feel as if I am in a “fog”. Now try to imagine explaining what feeling in a “fog” feels like?
The 1st definition of “fog” is as follows: “a thick cloud of tiny water droplets suspended in the atmosphere at or near the earth’s surface that obscures or restricts visibility.” Considering I spent the majority of my days sitting in a room, laying on the floor with the lights turned off, and an ice pad on my head, I definitely didn’t feel like I was in a thick cloud of tiny water droplets. But, for those who have suffered from these injuries before know that feeling in a “fog” is a real thing. But the problem is that there is no way to explain this feeling- especially when those who are expected to heal you and lead you to recovery have never suffered from these injuries. They can’t directly relate to this unknown feeling. The feeling is indescribable until you have suffered from a concussion yourself.
Fast forward a few years and concussion #3 comes around, it really is #4 or #5 because by now you know to hide the small ones. So automatically #3 goes to #5 and that’s when you start thinking. This time I can’t physically hide it anymore, all of a sudden the pucks moving at 100 mph, and each time someone skates by me I see double. At this point, you realize that you’ve already done enough to worsen your current state. You know what fog feels like, and you’ve still yet to find a doctor who you can explain this feeling to. The only difference between #2 and #3 is that at this point is you know there’s no escape. There’s no timeframe. A timeframe doesn’t exist with concussions. You can’t put a cast over your head and were a sling, and hope that in 3 weeks you feel normal. Concussions just don’t work like that. So you begin to play a game of maybe tomorrow’s the day. You begin going to bed every night hoping that the next day you’ll wake up feeling “normal”. You go from one day to the next, but you know in the back of your mind it’ll do no help, only time will tell. Eventually after a few months of being in an indescribable fog, the fog disappears and you go back to living a normal life. All you can hope for at this point is that you never have to experience this pain and confusion again.
Of course you get concussion #4, and in reality it’s probably #6 and you try hiding it again. Some might ask why. Because you know at this point someone is going to ask the question “is it really worth it anymore?” And that’s not the question anyone wants to hear. No, there is no number that tells you to quit but still you go to bed night after night, hoping that the next morning you wake up and all of your fog disappears. And then once you’ve hit the 5th morning of not feeling any better, you come to the reality it’s real.
There is no one who needs to tell you, and there will be even those who will try to convince you otherwise but inside you know the decision that has to be made. For those that know the feeling, you know it’s one of the most frustrating things, and for those who have never experienced one before, you will never truly be able to relate or fully understand.
There was no one that told me it was time to give up. I’m sure if I asked around, I could have gotten that answer, but I didn’t need to ask anyone. I knew that this was it. Mentally, I couldn’t risk the possibility of spending months hoping that tomorrow is the day I feel “normal”, and going to sleep every night hoping that the fog would suddenly disappear. If you have suffered from concussions in the past you understand that I’m not delusional. For everyone else, you won’t truly understand.
For those of who you have a concussion, or think you have a concussion, talk to someone who has experienced one before. Doctors, and trainers can do all types of things. But, the reality is that these usually aren’t the people who knows what the feeling of being in a “fog” feels like. Because when you talk to someone who knows how to relate, they are going to believe you, and most of all you’ll be able to relate with someone who knows what you are going through.
Back to other Student-Athlete Concussion Stories.