Confessions of a Former Football Fan

imageI used to love football. Never missed a Chiefs game (pitiful, I know, but it was a long time ago). Watched whoever was playing on Monday nights. Went to all our kids’ high school games, though none of them played. Hosted and went to a lot of game-watch parties.

Then, three years ago, my darling oldest elbowed me in the cheekbone while we were swimming. It wasn’t until the next day the serious symptoms of concussion set in. The first symptom was killer head pain. Then exhaustion, nausea, inability to think straight or read or sleep. These symptoms, especially the headaches, lasted at least six weeks – brilliantly termed “post-concussion syndrome.” Very little is known about why some people with mild head trauma go on to have this long-term and miserable condition.

I recall sitting around and resting a couple of weeks into my concussion recovery and reflecting on how irritable I felt. I had zero interest in any of my hobbies, in my work, even in what my family was doing. And it hit me like a – well, a smack on the head: I was experiencing concussion-induced depression. Thankfully I’d done enough incidental reading pre-concussion to know that depression could be a side effect of head trauma, and I had plenty of experience with depression symptoms from living for years with a chronically depressed husband. I was able to take a step back and tell myself, “What you’re feeling is due to an injury. It will go away.” And eventually this bout of depression did go away. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that my head injury would lead to a worsening of the mild seasonal depression I’d dealt with for years – enough that I was forced to seek treatment for it.

Not long after my concussion, I started reading and hearing about football players and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. If I could have such massive effects from such a mild, one-time injury, I was heartsick over what had to be happening to the high school and college kids and pros who get bashed in the head many, many times in every practice and every game. How many of those players have the background, the support, and the perspective I had that enabled me to get through my concussion-induced depression? How many of those players are forfeiting their long-term physical and mental health for short-term glory on the gridiron?

I’m not a football fan any more. Can’t go to the high school games. Don’t watch it on tv. And every time I hear of a Junior Seau committing suicide, or a Jovan Belcher committing murder-suicide, I can’t help but wonder whether head trauma contributed significantly to their downward spiral.

Both head trauma and depression can be serious and life-threatening. I’m hoping for a day when no young people are exposed to both through what’s supposed to pass for entertainment.

-Amy

Read a recent update on Chronic Traumatic Encaphalopathy:
http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/8867972/ucla-study-finds-signs-cte-living-former-nfl-players-first-time

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