Sunday, December 18, 2011

Concussions

I have a great memory. Really solid. I'm not the Rain Man or anything, but I remember things many people don't. The strange part is, my memory used to be a lot better and, at another point in my life, a heck of a lot worse.

You may be confused. Let me go back.

Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, I became very frustrated with school. I found most of my classes to be boring. I could remember the subject matter by listening in class and doing a little reading. I didn't like doing my homework. I could ace the tests without it. I was fine with this, but my parents and teachers weren't. My teachers tried to get me to realize that homework assignments were building up my study habits for the future. They were important. I still didn't really buy in. I had my memory to rely on.

As I got older and entered more challenging schools with much more demanding workloads, something else happened, too. Hockey was becoming much more physical, and I started playing football. I was taking serious hits. Many to the head. By my second year in college, I was finally able to admit that I was struggling mentally. My brain wasn't the same. Several concussions had clearly zapped my memory and made it harder for me to concentrate in class. It was difficult.

Fast forward a couple more years, through college and a stint in minor pro hockey. More contact. More head shots. A couple more concussions. That put me almost half-way to 30 with mush for brains. At least compared to what they were.

That was 2007, a very important year for three reasons. I stopped playing competitive hockey, I got engaged and married to my lovely wife, and I decided to write. I decided to really write. I decided to become a writer. With mush for brains.

Next, something amazing happened. My brain started working again. I was teaching, engaging with students on a daily basis. I was writing, trying my best to get my first novel-length story out of my system. And, I was resting my head. No more hits. It appeared that I got out of hockey at just the right time. Concussions are strange beasts. One attack too many, and it can be all over. I was lucky. The beast didn't claim me.

This fall, I started to feel really good about myself. Really strong. Some of my old, nagging sports injuries had died down, and I was getting the itch to play hockey again. I was communicating back and forth with a local single-A team, ready to fill in if they needed an extra guy due to injuries or suspensions. Then, another piece of luck struck me. The team folded. They went bankrupt right in the middle of the season. Done.

Why was that lucky for me you ask? Well, remember that beast named Concussion a couple paragraphs above? He's not a good guy. One more visit from him, and I could've been a vegetable. It sounds drastic, but it's true. You never know what the next concussion might bring. It's serious. I know for a fact that if I took another big hit that sent me back to feeling the way I did in the early to mid 2000's, I would never be able to write books. It just wouldn't happen. I wouldn't physically be able to do it.

Is it hard to swallow that I'm probably still good enough to play hockey at that level? Yes. It is hard. Part of me wants it. I feel good. I know I could play. But a much bigger part of me now knows what I could lose if I tried it: Everything. And that's just too much to risk.


For more info about concussions in hockey, please read this great article by Hall of Famer Ken Dryden: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7352942/waiting-science

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent and important article. I hope others find this piece. No activity is worth losing your mind.

    ReplyDelete