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Heading For Trouble: Personal Account No. 5

Samantha was defined by her sport. But she didn't have to be. Courtesy Samantha Price

[Ed.'s Note: In the latest issue of The Mag, senior writer Peter Keating examines the dangers of concussions for female athletes, who are 68% more likely to be concussed than their male counterparts. Here, Samantha Price, gives the fifth in a series of five personal accounts from women who have suffered concussions on the field of play.]

I have been playing soccer since I was five years old. I played on rec teams, travel teams, for my middle and high school teams and planned on playing in college. And I had been pretty lucky through the years, suffering only minor injuries and nothing that would keep me out for more than a week.

But when I got to high school, the game became more competitive and physical. I got my first concussion in October of my sophomore year. During a game, I got a hard shot to the side of the head. I fell down, but I got up and continued playing. The next day, I had bad headaches and was really sensitive to sound. I went to the school trainer, and she told me I had gotten a concussion. It was mild, nothing that she was too worried about. After three weeks of sitting out, I was back in the game.

October of my junior year, I got another concussion during a game. This time, I was hit in the back of the head with the ball. It was at the end of the season, so I missed the last week and then a month or so of the post season.

The following summer, before my senior year, the school team signed up for a week-long sleep-away camp at Rutgers. And on the third day, during a scrimmage, I went up for a header and another girl ran into my legs forcing my body to flip. The back of my head hit the ground, then my body landed.

The second I hit, I knew it was not good. I knew the feeling from my two earlier concussions. The trainer at the camp told me to sit out the rest of the day, and I was hopeful that I would be able to play again the next day. But it's been eight months since that concussion, and I'm still not even supposed to run, let alone get on the field again. My school trainer told me that a woman should have a maximum of three concussions in her entire life, and I had three in three years, all before I turned 18.

That August, I went to see Dr. Jill Brooks, a neuropsychologist who works with athletes who had have head injuries. She told me that, after three concussions, the symptoms could possibly become permanent. I was terrified. But my first question was to find out when I could get back to soccer.

What I didn't realize then was that my parents, my school trainer and Dr. Brooks weren't even thinking about soccer, they were thinking about my education and my future in the world. If I could tell everyone one thing I learned from my concussions, it's that you have to think about the future and any long-term effects. Yes, I love soccer, but I value my ability to think and learn even more. If I jumped into playing soccer before my head was healed, I might not be able to live up to my potential in college and in my future career.

I met with the school's athletic doctor in October, and he told me that he was not going to clear me to play on my school's soccer team. He also told me that I really should give up soccer and all other contact sports if I didn't want to have medical problems in the future. It was so hard for me to realize that he was right; I needed to give up being a soccer player forever. I ended up having to leave the doctor's office because I was crying. I was no longer "the soccer player."

It took me many crying nights and long talks with my parents to understand that soccer didn't define me. It was something I loved doing, but now I would find another passion.

Samantha Price is a high school senior in Flemington, N.J.