Saturday, November 14, 2015

Calling It Off by Killy from Philly A frank description of dealing with concussions

Anyone who reads my blog knows that concussions are an important issue for me. You can't train harder to avoid a concussion in derby; it's about the laws of physics, and it can happen to anyone who straps on skates and plays derby. I've seen concussions derail many skaters, ending their careers too soon. Thank you Killy for sharing your experiences with concussions on this post.

Calling It Off
by Killy from Philly

I am not one normally lost for words. It has taken me a long time to find the words to talk about my head injuries. Out loud. To talk with my doctors, teammates, my captains, my family and friends. Sometimes skaters I barely know message me for advice because they heard that I had concussions. The loss of your mental capacity is scary enough. It's been challenging to share openly about the symptoms without people being concerned, and suggesting I need to stop skating. I haven't always had the words to educate people on an invisible injury with invisible symptoms.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

You can’t shake off a concussion or skate it out. For me, the hits have added up. Sometimes loud noises leave me exhausted. Sometimes the words don't come out of my mouth when I expect them to. Sometimes I get headaches. Sometimes I get tired easily and I have to rest more frequently than I used to. Sometimes I get angry faster and become more impulsive. Sometimes I become sad for no reason. I can only share my own experience. Other people might have different experiences with their concussions. I am not providing medical advice. There are trained professionals for that. Yes I have a good helmet. No I don't have a face shield. I assume a certain level of risk on the track. All skaters do. With three concussions, continuing to skate is not a choice I make lightly. But it's a choice I have made nonetheless for the last year. In the last year, the high blocks have added to my concussions- hit by hit. 

I have learned to take care of myself after a concussion, to share how critical it is after one not to jump back in too soon. I have learned how the concussed person is not the best judge when it comes to their condition because, hello, they just got hit in their head. Quietly I talk about the nightmares and depression that kicked in afterwards. If you suspect you have a concussion, you probably do. One of my concussions was from the whiplash off a hit; my head was never touched. I share about how to ease yourself back into physical activities after a concussion. I have learned to come back to practice slowly. I have learned to turn down jamming when I just got back from a concussion.

I talk more loudly about how no helmets can prevent a concussion. It doesn’t matter what the commercials say or how many safety certificates they have. A helmet can reduce your risk but they cannot prevent a concussion. It’s about informing yourself about head injuries because it's a matter of when, not if. I ask about WFTDA and different leagues' concussion protocols. I read articles and medical journals on concussions in the NFL. The medical field is still learning about traumatic head injuries. There’s a lot they do not know.
Then there are things that I've come to terms with: it is difficult for referees to see and call high blocks. There are too many things they need to see. As a referee, the head is one of the last places you look. 

I no longer feel the rules can protect me. No amount of cross-training will prevent another concussion. Changing up my skate style or stance is not enough to prevent another injury. Jamming less helps but it wouldn't eliminate the risk. Getting a high block at practice has become the rule, not the exception. I have sustained enough high blocks this season alone to break two pairs of glasses at practice. In the four years of skating, I have not broken a pair in the first 3 years of skating. I know I will be at risk for another hit every time I put on skates. I acknowledge concussions can happen doing non-skating activities. I know I cannot take another hit. I know I must stop playing derby.

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