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Personal Stories: My Experiences With Concussions

When you take a tumble off a horse going 20 to 45 mph and land on your head, trust me, you see all kinds of celestial objects and beings. Mine seemed to be multitudes of  pretty purple shooting stars. Five times I saw those pretty stars. Three times I was diagnosed with concussion.  And though I did not have a medical examination,  it is safe to assume  I had suffered the same fate the other two times I saw the stars.

Many riders sustain concussions when they fall off their horse.

As someone who has worked in the horse industry for years I believe the incidents of concussion are largely unreported in our industry.

You’re Lucky You Fell On Your Head Otherwise You’d Be Hurt!

Rocks for brains, that was always the joke. I was hard headed in more ways than one.  However, I now realize these bumps on the head affected me for several days to even a few months later. I remember some sensitivity to light and sounds. The most disconcerting was a feeling of motion sickness that would sometimes strike while I was on a horse. Waves of nausea and dizziness are not something you want to experience when your  balanced on the back of a racehorse 6 feet above the ground.

In the world of horses and riders, when you hit the ground you shake it off and get back on the horse unless you are physically unable.  I did this willingly,  I loved my job.  Just as importantly, I did not want to be considered a wuss who let pain and fear overcome me. I wanted everyone to know I was tough and not afraid. Three times I was back in the saddle within minutes. After the fourth serious swan dive to the dirt,  I took three days off, not because of the possibility of concussion, but because I was simply too sore to get on a horse. In an eight year period I had four hard falls and head hits with seemingly no serious repercussions. However after the fifth, I am told that I took off  7 days and returned to work on the eighth day.

Coming To On A Horse

Yes, they had to tell me, I don’t remember. My first recollection after that fall was coming back to awareness one morning on the back of a horse heading to the racetrack for a gallop. It is a feeling that hard to explain, it was not as if I woke up, it was that I was suddenly aware of what I was doing. It is a strange feeling to be sitting on a horse and not remember how you got there. It was disturbing to learn that two weeks had past of which I had and still have no memory. It is scary to think that I was out on the racetrack in the mornings with 50 or more horses and riders for a week essentially blacked out. And a scarier thought still was that I was driving a large ¾ ton truck around town everyday!

Friends tell me that I did complain about having headaches, I giggled more than usual, teared up easily and seemed a little confused at times, but otherwise I seemed normal. I did my work well and seemed to be coherent. No one at the time thought I might be still dealing with the effects of a  concussion. No one knew that I was going through the motions not aware of what I was doing, especially me.

Concussions Effects Were Not Known

Do I doubt what medical science is discovering about the long term effects of multiple concussions?  No, I believe I have seen the results of multiple concussions in friends and family. People like me who had a few unintended dismounts resulting in some serious hits to the head.  As they got older they became a little and sometimes a lot more eccentric. Mostly it was blamed on alcohol or drugs, sometimes they were thought to be irresponsible or just crazy. But now I realize there is a strong probability that old head injuries were a contributor to their mental decline. I have been lucky; so far there have not been any lingering or long term effects. But admittedly now sometimes fear creeps in when I forget a name or cannot find the proper word.

So knowing what I know now would I have working with and riding high strung race horses after that first or second concussion? No, I absolutely loved  and still love working with and riding horses, though it has been years since I have ridden a horse at the racetrack. But there are other things that I have changed. I no longer consider it a badge of honor to work through injury and pain.  Looking back, I now realize how stupid I was. But I have to remember, it was a different time; no one, not even doctors realized that head injuries could have such long term implications.  In light of what we now know, it seems crazy, but that was how it was.

Concussion and cool / cold weather sports.

Many fall and winter sports have higher probability of concussions.

Concussions: Cold Weather Sports and Activities

Fall and winter are fast approaching and with cool weather comes sports and activities that have higher incidents of concussion. Football, soccer, hockey, snow skiing and bike riding will be picking up. It is important for family members, coaches and friends to be aware of the signs of concussion. If someone has sustained a hard blow to the head, pull them out of the game, take them off of the slopes, make them stop whatever activity and get them to a medical facility for evaluation. Concussions are serious enough but there are far more serious  injuries such as brain hemorrhage or excessive swelling that need to be ruled out.

A Concussed Brain Will Say I Am Fine

Don’t rely on someone who has taken a head hit, even if it seems minor,  to tell you their condition. They cannot assess their injury. If they seem ok, watch for signs that might indicate they are not; dizziness, nauseousness,  head pain, confusion and excessive sleepiness are signs of a concussed brain.  Someone should be with them for at least 24 hours to ensure there are no complications. Seemingly minor head injuries can escalate hours later.

It Only Takes One Time

Most people weather and recover from concussions without any problems. But needless deaths occur every year  due to the ignorance of coaches, family, friends, and teammates. It is important not to assume that someone has “just had his / her bell rung” and will be alright. We all should know better than that today. Be aware, don’t be afraid to take action to stop questionable activity and most importantly know the signs of concussion.

 

 

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