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Anne Hilker

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My So-Called Concussion

Posted: 01/23/2012 9:07 am

Recently I hit my head while going for the ball in a basketball game. The ball bounced off the backboard and was sailing just over my head when I leaped in the air. Unfortunately, so did my opponent, who was five-foot-10. I managed to slap the ball out of bounds but on my way down slipped and fell backwards and slammed my head on the wooden floor. My friends said they heard a crack.

I felt fine so I kept playing. But the next day I had frequent headaches, so my teachers sent me to the nurse. She asked a series of questions that included: "What's your name, who is the president, where do you live, and what is today's date?" I got them all right (fortunately, my dad never stops talking about Obama and I was forced to memorize my address in kindergarten). She couldn't confirm if I had a concussion or not, so she sent me to the school's physical therapist.

When I saw the physical therapist, I explained once more what had happened. She couldn't confirm I had a concussion either, so she left a message for my mom and gave us the name of a "special" doctor. She excused me from practice and I had to get a doctor's note to play again.

After school I was waiting for my Dad to come take me to a doctor. My friends came over to wait with me. I took out my computer, then they yelled at me. They said that if I did have a concussion I wasn't allowed to look at my computer, phone, and other technology. Apparently it messes with your brain. Oops. What was I supposed to do then? Sit around staring at a wall? I was really worried at that point.

At the doctor's office, I had to wait for an exceptionally long time in an examining room before the doctor actually came in. I got bored. In defiance of the "no cell phone use" sign, I called my Dad in the waiting room.

He answered and was really confused: "Wait -- are you calling me from the doctor's office?"

I hesitated: "Maybe..."

He hung up.

Five minutes later the doctor came in. She asked me the same questions the nurse had asked me earlier that day. Then she asked me if I had any allergies to food or medications. I thought she said: "Do you have any allergies, taken any medicine or food?" So I told her everything I had eaten that day. She just looked at me for a while.

Next she asked me to rate the pain in my head on a scale of one to 10. I told her 3.8. She laughed. She continued to check my eyes and reflexes, which appeared to be fine. My overall diagnosis: concussion-free, but in need of better listening skills.

Did you know that there are about 1.7 million concussions that happen every year in the United States alone? According to the Centers for Disease Control, a concussion is caused by a blow to the head, neck or body that makes the brain move rapidly around the skull. Weird, right? Football is responsible for most injuries in high school sports, but you can even get a concussion by heading the ball in soccer. A misdiagnosed or untreated concussion can result in a coma, long-term brain damage, and in some cases death. So if you smack your head like I did, seek help right away. You can find more information here.