Concussions happen to other people. Not me! We read about professional athletes who have them and the ugly long-term effects if one has several of them, particularly in a short period of time. It is called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy a.k.a. CTE. It comes from repetitive brain trauma, i.e. hitting your head or being hit on the head with something hard.
Back in the old days when I was a ski racer, we didn’t wear helmets except in the downhill. In other races, if you fell and banged your head on the snow that was often the consistency of granite, it was part of the game. We were much more worried about breaking a leg because that would take us out of racing for six weeks or more!
If your head smacked the frozen granular surface in a fall and you saw stars, we all laughed about getting your “bell rung.” You took two aspirin and wrote off the headache as what it was. Honestly, I have no idea how many times this happened to me other than it was more than once, sometimes several times in a season. Recent research suggests CTE shows up about 10 – 15 years after the last event and I’m well past that window.
Fast forward to last week. We – two of my grandchildren and I – were stopped, waiting for the light to change when a car hit us from behind. I remember hearing a screech and looked into the rear view mirror just in time to see a silver blur slam into the right rear corner of my Honda Pilot. My head bounced off the headrest. The policewoman estimated that the other driver was going around 30 miles an hour when she hit us.
We got out and I checked on my two grandkids. One, like me was a bit dizzy, remembered seeing stars. After a few minutes, the dizziness went away but I felt out of sorts, nauseous and had a headache. After our car was towed away, we went to an ER and the doctor confirmed that two of the three of us had mild concussions.
On discharge, we were given a sheet that listed post concussion symptoms. I glanced at it and brought it home figuring that later in the day, I’d feel fine. Au contraire, mon ami!
For the rest of Friday, the headache persisted. When I got up Saturday morning, it was still there. I started to take one of our dogs out for a walk, got about a hundred feet from the house and everything in my body said stop! So I went back to the house. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I just didn’t feel right all day Saturday. Nausea came and went several times during the day. I tried doing some editing and had difficulty concentrating. In fact, this blog being typed around 0800 on Sunday, roughly 45 hours after the accident is one of the first things I’ve tried writing other than short responses to couple of emails.
So, as I type this, concussions do happen and they’re serious s – – t. What scares me is their cumulative effect over a lifetime. We know so much about concussions now than we did back in the sixties. And, while this last one was mild and I haven’t had one in a long time, is this one a trigger to something worse? Hence, my thoughts about CTE. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I have to wait for the symptoms to subside which may take another day or two so if they don’t, it means a trip to a neurologist.