A doctor recently told me this, "think of your concussion as bruising of your brain which then limits it to function properly."
Before 11th February 2018, I'd never really paid much attention to concussion. Of course, through the media and being a sports mad fan I was aware of it, especially in sports such as rugby and, more recently, football. But hockey...no, not really. After all it's a 'non contact' sport. I think I've only known 2 or 3 team mates in the last 4 years since being involved with the GB training squad to have missed sessions due to concussion.
But, at about 6.30pm on 11/02/2018 in Rosario, Argentina, BOOM, concussion decided to come and say a massive hello. I posted the video of what happened on my Instagram and Facebook pages so take a look if you wish. To be honest it was a bit of a shock watching it back. Initially I didn't think it was too bad when it first happened. A classic clash of heads that you 'run off'. Far from what was to be the case...
I was being subbed off anyway and off I went. I had a headache and felt a bit sick and told our medical staff on the bench. They asked me a few questions; the time, the score, the date, where we were and I got all these right. A couple of minutes later the headache subsided and I was ready to go back on. I was told firmly no, and that I had concussion so wasn't allowed to play any further part. At this point I got extremely emotional and angry and couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed to go back on. I now know this is a symptom of concussion - increased emotion and irritability.
Once the match had finished, recognisable symptoms of concussion really started to hit in; fatigue, balance problems, headache, sensitivity to light and sound. Staying awake after showering and changing was a challenge and I really just wanted to go to bed. On my return to the hotel I had a SCAT3 test (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) which showed I had mild concussion symptoms.
Now there is no treatment (as of yet!) for concussion except patience and rest. Some people recover quickly, taking only days to feel normal. About one in five concussion patients take weeks or months to recover. How severe the injury was has little to do with how long it takes to recover; women, younger people, those who’ve had concussions before and people with other brain disorders are more likely to take longer, according to recent research.
I'm 3 weeks and counting post concussion and feeling soooo much better. Initially I struggled a lot with the sunshine and brightness in Argentina so was often seen with my hood up and sunglasses firmly on. Noise was also a problem as it tended to go straight through me which was far from ideal. Screens were difficult too, but luckily reading was fine. I managed to get through the whole of Gareth Thomas's autobiography 'Proud' in 4 days (really good read btw.) The main consistent symptoms have been headaches and a bit of fatigue which has made me be really careful to keep on top of sleep and hydration. Habits I've got into are really easy things like always making sure I have a full bottle of water with me and using Headspace before bed to try and sleep easier and deeper.
The return to training is slow, thorough and careful but I know and understand now that it really needs to be. Brain injuries are not ones to be messed about with. The return to play process is based on stages and completing these stages symptom free. I must say I've learnt a lot about concussion and a lot about respecting your brain, symptoms and the importance of rest. I'm really grateful to the extremely knowledgable medical staff we have at the EIS and GB Hockey that have made sure that my recovery is exactly what my injury needed (thanks Matt, Batch, Kate and Moiz!). I 100% trust them and what they are doing is right for me and my recovery.
I've had some good and some not so good days over the last 3 weeks but luckily there are way more good days than bad. Can't wait to get back to full fitness and start playing when my body, and more importantly, brain is ready!