Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there

Rory Brater (’23) advocates for teachers and administrators to have greater understanding for students impacted by concussion. “…concussions can be just as serious as a broken ankle or torn ACL. Just because you can’t physically see an injury, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”

According to the CDC, one in five high school athletes will experience a concussion every season. A major issue is that concussions can be injuries that people don’t know they have. This is because they’re hard to diagnose and doctors still aren’t sure exactly what they are. A concussion is different from say an ankle injury, in that there’s often no physical change in appearance, like swelling. The Mayo Clinic  refers to a concussion as a traumatic brain injury(TBI) that affects your brain function. This injury can cause countless symptoms such as: headaches, pressure in the head, nausea, balance problems, dizziness, sensitivity to light and noise, confusion, and a feeling of “being down.” These are just a few of the many symptoms that a person can experience if they have a concussion. Frequently, victims of concussions may relate their symptoms to dehydration, not eating enough, not sleeping enough or in some cases, depression. 

In a volunteer survey that I created, I found that 92% of respondents were unsure about what a concussion was before they had one. Through this same survey, I also found that 89% of the respondents saw dropping grades. One person said that their grades took such “a drastic fall” that by “the end of the trimester and [they were] healthy, there was not enough time to improve [their] grades that [they] had to take a pass/fail.” The issue here is that there is not enough information about concussions for students, parents, teachers and even administration.

I was one of these students whose grades dropped while having a concussion. As I was playing varsity soccer for Skyline last spring, I endured three concussions within 4 months. When I got my first concussion, I was confused as to why my head was pounding so hard and why I couldn’t open my eyes without excruciating pain in my head. I went to Neurosport at the University of Michigan to receive treatment and therapy for my brain; this consisted of vestibular therapy(for my eyes) and neck therapy, because of the incredible strain on my neck that had been caused by less strength in my head. 

I tell my story, not for pity, but to educate others. To show others that concussions can be just as serious as a broken ankle or torn ACL. Just because you can’t physically see an injury, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Beyond this, my experiences with concussions have taught me that you can’t see everything about a person on the surface; you never know what one is going through or the pain they feel past the smile they put on their face. Something important to keep in mind is that kindness and understanding should always be at the forefront of your actions. Without these two things, accommodating others’ situations is not possible and neither is creating a “safe” space. 

All I truly want to say is this: Always be understanding because you never know what’s happening beneath the surface.

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