Concussions force athletes to put dreams on hold

Kaitlin Lewis | Staff Writer

Chris Allgor had visions of glory on the gridiron, Collin Hawkins had dreams of stardom on the soccer pitch,  Spencer Knight could see himself hitting the shot that clinched a conference title for the Comets.

Nearly every athlete who laces up their shoes or hears the snap of the chinstrap on their first football helmet dreams of athletic glory.  Touchdowns, goals, the swish of the net consume their every thought.

When they’re young and naive the last thing these athletes think about is being forced to give up the games they so dearly love. But that was exactly the case for three Mason athletes who had to hang it up due to head injuries.

Concussions are no mystery to any athlete. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur every year in the United States.

Many children experience some sort of head trauma during youth sports, the biggest cause being youth football. After a child has experienced one concussion, they are four to six times more likely to experience another, and concussions only grow more serious each time they occur.

Senior Chris Allgor started playing football in the second grade and experienced numerous concussions throughout his playing career.

“There’s two types of concussions,” Allgor said. “Ones that were documented, and ones that were undocumented. I am not sure, but I may have had a few (concussions) throughout playing youth football. But that was not recorded.”

Allgor experienced his first documented concussion in seventh grade. The middle schooler was able to return to physical activity within two weeks, however, suffered another concussion from being rear ended at a stop light not more than 6 months later.

The closeness of both concussions was very dangerous, and recovery time took four to five months. Allgor’s last and final concussion occurred during football practice his sophomore year. This head trauma put Allgor out of sports all together, ending his football career.

Concussions are unlike any other injuries in sports. Those who have experienced concussions can diagnose its symptoms almost immediately. Junior Collin Hawkins has experienced four concussions; three of which from being a goalkeeper in soccer, and two being within the same school year. Hawkins described each concussion to have about the same immediate effects.

“You know what a concussion feels like after you’ve had one,” Hawkins said. “I literally could just lay down, and my head was twirling, like I could almost see stars. You don’t really feel pain, but you feel like your head is (being) crushed. And you just know that something is wrong.”

Along with seeing stars, concussions can cause a myriad of other symptoms. Dizziness, lack of focus, sensitivity to lights and sound, and more can all follow a serious head injury. Both Allgor and Hawkins struggled continuing with schoolwork after their concussions.

Many student-athletes have a difficult time paying attention in their classes or find the lights in the school hallway to be too bothersome. Memorization and studying for tests can be close to impossible when your head feels like mush. Hawkins explained that some of the symptoms he suffered from became scarcer as time went on.

“When I got my last one, I’d have to come out of class,” Hawkins said. “Once a bell, I would come out and sit (almost) 20 minutes in a completely dark room. But after, like now, nothing really bothers me unless I’m having one of those days.”

In some cases, concussions leave a mark much longer than just the recovery period. Sophomore Spencer Knight had three concussions within his freshman year. The first one knocked him unconscious, and kept him out of sports for three months. The last two were both relatively minor, but it was decided that Knight would have to give up any contact sports. That meant an end to his football career as well. Knight is able to continue to play basketball, his second sport, but suffers more lasting effects than just being pulled off the field.

“I get migraines maybe once or twice a week,” Knight said. “Which really sucks because you have to just lay down. I take daily medicine for my migraines, and have doctors’ visits once every two weeks.”

Some adjustments could be made to certain sports in order to help lower the number of concussions. In football, different techniques can be taught so that players avoid using their head in a tackle.

In soccer, goalkeepers sometimes wear a rugby hat in order to protect themselves from any nearby kicks. Even with these precautions, however, some concussions will always be unavoidable.

“They really try to push new techniques in practices,” Allgor said. “I think there could be less hitting in practices. But in the game, you are not thinking about everything you learned at practice. That is always going to be a risk.”

And despite any risks of future injuries, even those who have suffered through concussions do not regret a moment of playing time. No matter what, athletes love their sport, and the dreams they form as a child gives them a drive to play until they are forced off the field.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to do other stuff, but I definitely miss the sport,” said Allgor. “I enjoyed the camaraderie with teammates that football creates. Even now, I wouldn’t change it.”