Ironically, the experience of sustaining a concussion is something not easily forgotten. Although the immediate aftermath of the impact may be fuzzy because of dizziness and nausea, the months of recovery with extreme light sensitivity and splitting headaches serve as a painful reminder of the traumatic brain injury that occurred. This has become commonplace for SCU sophomore Jake Baekey, who at age 20, has already racked up five medically diagnosed concussions
Recently discovered medical information revealing the truly detrimental nature of concussions has stirred today’s society, and the NFL, into a frenzy. A crucial piece of this new information pointed towards the idea of “quantity over quality”. In other words, the damage of cumulative concussions has become a point of emphasis for the medical community. At the fundamental level, a concussion, or TBI (traumatic brain injury), is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a violent shaking of the head or body. A momentary loss in brain functionality takes place when the brain itself knocks against the skull. Undoubtedly a serious injury, concussions are also incredibly common, with anywhere from 2-4 million occurring every year.
Despite telling me that he grew up knowing about the dangers of concussions, Jake was unable to prevent them from happening. Living in the Northeast, Jake fit the stereotypical role of a winter athlete, regularly playing hockey and skiing, which happen to be two activities that see a high number of concussions. “I received my first concussion when I was playing hockey,” he said, “My head got punched into the boards and I tried to continue playing but was seeing double so I came off”. Additionally, Jake noted that this first concussion remained undiagnosed for a week or so, and he even played lacrosse afterward. This experience proves how crucial proper diagnosis is when evaluating an injury; something that has shown to be an unrelenting challenge for health care professionals at all levels.
Diagnosis of concussions is a very tricky situation for health care professionals and trainers on the sidelines. These individuals must distinguish between a light blow to the head and a potentially more forceful one. On top of this, there is no way of knowing if the athlete is being completely honest about their symptoms so a near impossible decision must be made. This is particularly true for professional sports, specifically the NFL and NBA, where millions of dollars are in play and each game is of critical importance. The recent onslaught of media coverage for concussions is due in large part to the increase in deaths and early retirements by NFL players
During our interview, Jake spoke candidly with me about the effects of repetitive head traumas, another hot button aspect of society’s current, concussion discussion. Three of his concussions, including the first, came from playing ice hockey and hitting his head on the ice. The other two came from the same action: hitting the snow while skiing and hitting the water while wakeboarding. Speaking on the main differences between his first concussions and his later concussions, Jake said, “The recovery time takes a lot longer and there are more residual side effects, both during and after recovery”. He went onto explain what some of the residual effects were such as light sensitivity and spontaneous migraines. For Jake, the severity of multiple concussions is very real and proving to have an impact on his life. Jake recognizes the long-term dangers of concussions and regrets having experienced so many at such a young age but his mentality is like that of many people with opinions on the topic: the rewards of doing what you love without fear are worth the risks