I always thought of concussions as just being headaches. You go to a doctor and they tell you that you have a minor concussion. Then they tell you that you need to sit out for two weeks and you will be fine. After those two weeks are up I would be back to competitive play ignoring symptoms, always thinking; “it’s been two weeks I’m fine.” That’s what I had learned over the years and I’m sure many others have found themselves in the same position. All of that changed for me in the summer of 2011. It was then that I learned how serious concussions can be and how important it is to really allow your brain to heal.
I was playing competitive soccer in the summer during my hockey’s off season to help keep me in shape for the up-coming season. During a game I received a goal kick from close range right into my right temple. I do not remember the kick nor falling to the ground. I just remember opening my eyes to my trainer standing over me telling me that she was going to pick me up and walk me to our bench. I remember being so dizzy and nauseous that I was pretty much just being dragged to the bench by my trainer. My legs where limp and I could hardly lift my head.
After 24 hours of vomiting and headaches I went to the hospital to make sure no serious damage had been done. But I got the same speech as I always did; wait two weeks and then you should be able to go back to playing like normal. The difference this time was that for those two weeks my headaches were so bad that I slept for 14-16 hours a day, only getting up to eat or use the bathroom. Thats when my mom got concerned, so we went to see a specialist.
The specialist had me starting on a very slow exertion therapy program. I would walk around in my pool and if I got a headache I would get set back to no physical activity. However, I was competitive and I wasn’t ready to allow a headache to stop me from playing sports so I tried to speed up my recovery. I quickly learned how bad things can get with a concussion if you don’t allow yourself to heal. After trying to rush back from my concussion, I learned that I had to start taking things slow if I wanted to get back to playing hockey competitively again. It was hard for me to watch all my teammates get back into the season training and practicing. Knowing that you should be there with them but having to be sidelined because of a headache. As annoying as it was, having headaches was my bodys way of saying that I was not yet fully healed. It meant that I wasn’t ready.
My recovery was long and for the first time in my life I was taking the correct path to concussion recovery. Listening and allowing my body to tell me when it would be time to try again. By the end of the summer I had a hard decision to make but I had to listen to my body and it was telling me I wasn’t ready for the season. It was the hardest choice I had to make. I was a very active person and my recovery had me at a standstill for so long but I chose to listen to my body and allow myself to fully heal before I would push it again. It took me about 7 months to fully get back into playing hockey again.
It was hard for me and not a day goes by that I wonder where hockey could have taken me but I’m thankful for what I learned from my concussion experience. Which is allowing your body to fully heal, learning when to say I am not okay and allowing the time to fully heal. Concussions aren’t like breaking a bone, you don’t have a case protecting it. I learned how important it is to know that a concussion is a serious injury, I mean this is your BRAIN we are talking about. Everyone should be aware of the symptoms and how serious things can get. I am writing this to help create more awareness. If I had more awareness of what was going on when I suffered from my concussions, I believe I would’ve had better recovery methods. It is so important for people to know it’s okay to speak up about symptoms, no matter how competitive you are and how badly you want to finish that game, or playoff round or even season. Your brain isn’t something you want to mess around with.
– Tori Ray
A double major graduate from St. Francis Xavier, Tori is currently working as a teacher at a pre school. Tori’s story shows her courage, devotion and patience. During the hockey season that I was on Tori’s team, she was unable to play the majority of the games due to her lingering concussion symptoms.