Noah experienced his first concussion last month. It was a scary and bizarre experience and not at all how I expected it would be. I have always been afraid of concussions. My kids have played both football and lacrosse since they were young. Bones have been broken, by the truckload. Yet, somehow until last month, we had been fortunate enough to remain concussion free.
Under Armour hosts an annual tournament in Maryland. There are teams from all over the country that participate. There are several teams across the country that attend the tournament. You have to be nominated to even tryout for the team. Keenan tried out as a senior and didn’t make it. Noah tried out as a Junior and didn’t make it. Noah tried out again as a Senior and he made the prestigious team. We were all so excited we decided to make a family trip out of it. Tickets were purchased, hotels booked, backs packed and wheels up we were on our way to Maryland.
We arrived at the hotel filled with excitement for the next day. We were playing an east coast team that was heavily favored to win. Jitters were high and the boys’ nervous excitement was as thick as the east coast humidity. Noah was to have practice the next day at 11:00 am and their first game would follow at 2:00 pm. Little did we know, that 2:00 game would be the only game Noah played all weekend.
The next morning we awoke to blazing hot temps and ridiculous amounts of humidity. As we got to the field I heard one of the parents say of our west coast team, “They aren’t used to playing in this kind of weather so hopefully that gives us an advantage.”
Indeed it did. We had five kids puking in the first half of the game they were so overcome by the heat. Noah was sluggish, but not puking. I was watching him very closely. I have read many articles about heat stroke and athletes and it scares the hell out of me. Like concussions. At halftime I made my husband walk over and tell him to make sure he hydrated and force him to drink water while he watched.
We started the second half tied. The boys were fired up. Shortly into the half Noah scooped up a ground ball and as he turned to run downfield with it he was greeted by a player from the opposite team who had two hands on his stick and used it to give Noah an uppercut. Stunned Noah dropped the ball. He recovered instantly, then shifted his stick to his left hand and as his opponent when to get the ground ball Noah, without even having his head turned in the direction of the ball, was able to somehow scoop it up, make a move that caused the player to miss him and run it down the field to throw an assist for goal. The crowd went crazy. Even the other team’s fans were shouting out WOWS and HOLY COWS they were so impressed by Noah’s athleticism and the play.
Unbeknownst to everyone in the stands, including myself, Noah had just suffered his very first concussion. I wouldn’t find out until 10:30 p.m. that night.
Noah continued to play in the second half of the game. He seemed off to me but I assumed the heat was getting to him. A couple of times I noticed him sitting on the bench, which wasn’t completely out of the norm, but there was something about his body language that was nagging at me. There was a moment on the field where the other team scored and Noah was at their goal as the team celebrated. He seemed confused. As if he wanted to high five their players but he wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. He then wandered over to the sideline. I said something to my husband and he said I was worrying about nothing. I worry a lot so I assumed he was right, but there was something still nagging at me.
After the game, which we lost by one goal, we took this photo.
Noah has no recollection of taking it. As a matter of fact, Noah has no recollection (to this day) of playing in the second half of the game. The last moment he remembers is the play right before the uppercut. He has no recollection of getting back to the hotel. He says he remembers one moment in the car where he was staring at Colton and he thought, “I have been staring at Colt for a long time, I should stop now.”
On the drive home, he repeated himself several times. “Well that sucked,” he said over and over. We just assumed he was really bummed about the game, though again, something was nagging at me. We got back to the hotel and he and his buddies went up and got their swim trunks, spent some time in the hot tub, then they all went together to dinner and a movie.
At 10:30 that night Noah came back to the hotel room. My husband and I were lying in bed watching tv, Colt was asleep. He sat down on my side of the bed and said, “Mom, I think I have a concussion.”
He then confessed to the fact that he didn’t remember the second half of the game or the drive home. In an instant all of the pieces of that nagging puzzle all day were put together in my mind. I saw them, in tiny increments, but without all of the information held in one thought, I couldn’t make sense of them.
I said to Noah, “Why did you keep playing?”
“It was so weird mom,” Noah said, “I knew when I came over and sat down on the bench that I had a concussion, but I forgot and went back in.”
It turns out his friends are the ones who saved him that day. I am so proud of them for realizing Noah was not ok and insisting that he come home and tell us, not have him hide it so he could continue to play. This is a special group of boys and they look out for each other. They need to. Because, here’s the thing. I would never have known and Noah was so groggy he wasn’t clear on what was going on. His friends said he kept repeating himself, asking the same questions over and over, not following the movie and when they would bring up plays he couldn’t remember them. They asked him about some portions of the second half, such as his big play that had the crowd going crazy and Noah confessed to them that he didn’t remember any of the second half of the game and that is when they marched him back to the hotel to tell us.
Clearly Noah didn’t play the rest of the tournament. I slept in bed next to him, and by slept I mean propped on an elbow staring at him and prodding him every half hour to make sure he was ok. We had him assessed the next morning to make sure we weren’t missing anything glaring. I called my pediatrician who happens to be a dear friend of mine and she gave me a list of things to watch. We had to give him a word to remember and then ask him ten minutes later what it was. Mercifully he was able to do so all day.
I always thought if one of my kids got a concussion I would know. It would be obvious. They would lose consciousness, vomit or their eyes wouldn’t dilate. I always thought my boys would know when they got a concussion. Clearly, that wasn’t the case in our situation. It takes a village as they say. Make sure you are aware of the symptoms of a concussion and make sure your son or daughter’s teammates are aware of them too.
I found out about this organization after the concussion, Athletes Saving Athletes. It is what the boys credit as giving them the knowledge about what was going on with Noah and the determination to make sure he told us.
You should also watch this with your athletes. Heck invite their whole team over and watch it together. Heads Up Concussions in Youth Sports.