My name is Katie Weatherston. I won a Gold Medal in the 2006 Olympics in Turin Italy with the women’s hockey team. Shortly after the Olympics, I went to a Team Canada training camp where I got cross checked from behind and went head first into the boards. I shook the hit off and kept playing, but I had the Team Canada doctor access me in between periods to be safe. I passed the few tests and was put back into the game. I then collided with a player at centre ice for blow #2 to the head and kept playing. The third blow to my head happened at a face off. My head grazed the other centre’s head and it felt like I hit a brick wall.
Two days later, I felt the full effects of the concussion and ended up in the ER with neck pain and nausea. I missed the next 3 months of hockey. I woke up daily feeling like I had a weight in my brain. When I walked up stairs I would get a head rush and when I tried to ease back into working out I would get head pressure and my ears would pop. I missed 1 month of university as I could not focus and read and study. Unfortunately, my head would never be the same. In December of 2008, I had a minor fall on the ice. I caught an edge and fell to my side. My head didn’t even hit the ice, but I felt my brain move side to side inside my head. I knew I had another concussion. This was the last time I played hockey as I wouldn’t recover from this concussion.
My brain feels like it is a soft egg and I am susceptible to concussions. For 2 years, I could not wear thin sandals as on heel strike my brain would rattle. I didn’t wear hats as this hurt my head. Hair ties too tight would agitate me. I avoid walking on concrete sidewalks as concrete is hard and it agitates my brain. I walk on asphalt and grass as much as possible. Recently, I fell to my knee and I felt my brain move again ‘splish splash’. It’s so frustrating to have to be cautious and conscientious of everything you do and always be thinking about your head. When I am in a boat, I have to stand up to absorb the waves or my brain rattles.
Every day, for the last 8 years, I have had headaches, jaw, neck and head tension and pain. This has led me to have many dark days. I have battled depression, anxiety and chronic pain. I have taken courses on coping with a disability. I feel trapped in an athletic and young body. Some days I feel hopeless and sad. I miss being an athlete and miss being able to lift things and do simple house chores and yard work like shoveling snow. I also had to give up my career as an elementary school teacher and I cannot work full time. This is hard to accept at the young age of 25 or now even at 34.
I am slowly learning how to pace myself better. I walk, swim and bike to get a bit of exercise, but cannot push myself – I feel like I work out like an 85 year old which frustrates me. I find that chiro, acupuncture, osteopath and massage help manage my pain and stabilize my mood. It’s been 8 years, but I am still learning how to deal with the pain and injury and trying to find new treatment options to help me improve my health. Doctors do not have any answers. No one is able to tell you what exactly is wrong with you as each concussion is different and what treatments will work best for you. It is also hard to live with an invisible disability because people look at you and see a healthy and fit young person, but your brain is telling you otherwise.
It’s great to see that there is more awareness to the dangers of concussions. If I could do it all over, I wish the doctors or myself would have pulled me out of that game in 2006. I hope that sharing my story will help others to not make the same mistakes I made and take concussions more seriously. Remove yourself from the game, wait 24 hours to return to play, be cautious.
– Katie Weatherston
Katie’s story not only shares her passion and devotion to sports and athletics but also highlights her strength and perseverance. Katie’s experiences with head trauma offers the unique perspective of concussion implications years after the initial injury.