A Multitude of Concussions

A Multitude of Concussions

I’ve become well versed in teen concussions after my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, had four concussions over a period of fifteen months from club volleyball. Also, PickyKidPix had a soccer teammate with two severe concussions; her older sister had a concussion so bad that she had to quit soccer altogether. I’ve teamed up with that mom, Mary Lou, to bring you what parents should know about concussions in children and teens.

My daughter is number 9. She plays libero, a defense specialist.

Our Concussion Story

volleyball and concussion

First Concussion

In retrospect, my daughter’s first concussion was a mild one that I didn’t realize was a concussion. She tried out for club volleyball team in December of 2015 where she took at least one hard ball to her head from girls serving the ball at high speeds. She had a headache for two days and then she was fine.  We didn’t go to the doctor at all.

Second Concussion

Her head coach of her volleyball club team called me to tell me that she had failed his concussion test. He wasn’t the coach at her practice when she took a very hard ball to the side of her head that had shanked off a teammate. He noticed that she didn’t look quite right during practice and gave her the test. She wasn’t able to recalling the words he’d given her in the correct order.

This was April 2015 at her MGA Club Volleyball practice. Her symptoms included memory loss, headache and light sensitivity. She missed about a week of school but the following week was spring break. When she was home, she had to stay off screens and she was bored and restless. She cocooned for that week at home, unhappily.

During that vacation, she took an intensive 40 hour art class at Mass College of Art. My boxing trainer advised drinking a lot of water to help bring down the swelling in the brain. After her week of art class, she returned to school full time and seemed fine.

multiple concussions from volleyballThird Concussion

When she took a ball to the head for her third concussion, it was probably January of 2016. Knowing that she would be isolated in her room and off screens, she opted to ignore it. I don’t think this concussion was severe but she suffered from headaches and light sensitivity. Since I didn’t know about it, she received no medical attention.
Her concussion may have contributed to a panic attack at school following a week off as a LIT counselor for Winter Camp. She was extemely sleep deprived and stressed from school work. The week at camp didn’t allow her to catch up on sleep and it was also her happy place where she felt relaxed. When camp ended and school, once more, loomed ahead, she was a mess. Her dad and I thought it was the usual camp blues — these girls cry for days when camp ends, they miss it so much!
But she had a panic attack on the first Monday morning back, and we had to swiftly intervene with therapy. After ten days out of school, she was back to herself. It was the ten scariest days where she wasn’t herself but a scared shell of herself. She didn’t like being alone so we kept her busy, taking her to her appointments and on errands. After the ten days, she returned to school and was back in the swing of things. During this time, we also got her glasses; her vision had changed slightly and she needed glasses for distance.

Fourth Concussion

Ryan Center for Concussion at Boston University

It was literally her first volleyball practice on March 9th, 2016 when she got what she says is the worst concussion of all four. She suffered from memory loss, headaches, insomnia, nausea, light sensitivity, loss of balance, and a shift in her vision. My friend, Head Soccer Coach at Boston College, recommended her team’s concussion specialist, Dr. Doug Comeau, who works at the Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation at Boston University. We met weekly with him and also did twice a week concussion physical therapy with “Cam” James Camarinos. I highly recommend them both. The PT is meant to strength weak muscles and stretch out tight ones. The idea behind it is to do daily exercises that will help with concussion prevention in the future.

Ryan Center at Boston University

Classes that required logical thinking like math, science and Spanish caused headache flareups. Dr. Comeau said that was typical though they didn’t know the reason why. My daughter had trouble sleeping and subsequently, even making half days at school was challenging. She ended up dropping all but essential classes to graduate on time; she had been taking an overload of classes previously so she had enough credits.
Now, in August, she is still not cleared to play volleyball. Her symptoms have improved but only recently and not completely. We made sure that her Junior year in high school wasn’t too rigorous. She had to repeat Spanish, and we didn’t let her take Honors Biology even though she wanted to. She insisted on taking AP English which is probably her toughest class next year.
We’re not sure if she will get headache flareups when school begins. You can’t really plan for these things; concussions take a long to heal, especially when there’s been multiple ones. The effect can be exponential with each subsequent concussion.
If I were to give advice after going through all this, I would tell you to see a concussion specialist if your child’s symptoms persist for more than 2 days. Professional and college contact sports teams will have a concussion doctor so seek them out.
liberos and concussion from volleyball

Here are some things about concussions were helpful revelations to me:

  • A teen brain is still being developed, which causes concussion to take longer to heal than adults. Who knew?! This is probably the one area that kids heal more slowly than adults.
  • There are doctors who specialize in concussions! Often, they take care of college sports teams in sports like hockey, football, and soccer. Your child’s regular pediatrician won’t know the latest research for treating concussions as this is a new and rapidly developing field.
  • There is also physical therapy for concussions. The purpose of this PT is primarily to fix tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles, particularly around the neck and shoulders, so that a future impact to the head will not result in a concussion.
  • You might need to find a series of medical providers to help treat specific symptoms. Mary Lou’s oldest lost her peripheral vision. In order to get it back, she had to find an eye doctor that had exercises that actually fixed this. But… she only found this doctor in Massachusetts from her doctor in California. It would have been impossible to find this otherwise. His treatment was unusual and the doctor himself was a little strange, but it can become as Turn-Over-Every-Stone to find the right medical providers that can help. For her daughter, gamer glasses helped with vision. We didn’t need those, but that’s a good tip.

  • Your child’s symptoms can depend on precisely where he or she was hit. My daughter’s concussions tended to be on the front lobes where her logical reasoning is located. School was therefore hard to get through. Another teen her age also had four concussions in roughly the same time period but had no trouble with headaches at school and was able to attend class as usual. Her concussions were front of the head and she had more issues with vision which my daughter did not.
  • The symptoms of concussion include: headache (from light to severe and can “flare up”), depression, anxiety, vision problems, sensitivity to light, loss of balance, short term memory loss, nausea, vomiting, confusion, dizziness, disorientation, sensitivity to noise, ringing in the ears, insomnia, and personality changes.
  • The latest thoughts on a severe concussion is to cocoon for a shorter length of time — around 48 hours — and then trying to go back to the usual routine. Staying cocooned for too long can result in concussion symptoms when returning.

concussion in brain

Image from University of Cambridge, via BBC.

A University of Cambridge team has identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teenage years.While the areas associated with the basic functioning of the body such as vision, hearing and movement are fully developed by adolescence, the areas associated with complex thought and decision making are still changing. from BBC

club volleyball and concussion

A Multitude of Concussions

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Wow, Mia–that’s such an intense story! How is she doing now? I haven’t had that much direct experience, but my daughter had a fall down attic stairs while in Germany when she was 10. I was in the US at the time and my husband called me to say she was disoriented and had a bit of memory loss. I told him to take her to the ER stat. I am so cautious about head injuries & subdural hematomas. Anyway, she had mild concussion symptoms, and it was during winter break so she was able to rest. She had a headache on & off for a week or so. Concussions are very scary and a serious matter. Thanks for sharing your story–it’s an important one! I really hope she’s feeling better now. Hugs to her!! (BTW–it’s been on hold for awhile, but I’m writing a novel where the MC gets serious concussions that alter her life & personality during her time as a soccer player. I’ve been busy with my picture books, so I haven’t really had time to dig in, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately)

    • Hi Maria,
      I like your MG story! It’s so ironic because all my kids played soccer, but I’m noticing way more injuries in volleyball than soccer! The court is smaller than the soccer pitch; the ball is traveling as fast or faster in volleyball, and the back row is diving for the ball or receiving a ball coming at them 60 miles an hour or more if the opponent is big, strong, and well trained.

      We’ve had a soccer teammate suffer through several bad concussions but, for the most part, we’ve seen more broken bones on my daughter’s team and knee injury than concussion.

      A concussion middle grade story is much needed! I’m glad you are writing one. Last year, US Soccer changed the rules about headers so now you have to be U12 to head the ball. My son, U11, has been heading the ball since he was 8. His club soccer team has been training on headers for years so the boys all forget about the new rule and head the ball which results in the whistle blown and losing possession. They can head this year. But honestly, instead of the header rule which is not necessarily the cause of most soccer concussions because you can get concussions from hitting your head on the ground from falling or getting kicked in the head, they should require mouth guards. It helps with preventing concussion more.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Cover Reveal: THE NIAN MONSTERMy Profile

    • Hi Maria,
      I just remembered. I ran into my kids pediatrician at a soccer game. His daughter was playing my middle daughter; first time it happened though I’ve known for years that they both play club soccer. He told me that on Mondays, his practice is slammed by kids with head injuries, sailing especially!! (From the boom swinging around). And other sports including soccer. These injuries happen over the weekend. (If you want to add in another other characters going through similar experiences in your book). Also, if the book is set in Boston, the sailing happens in the Charles River and maybe Atlantic too? Probably more in Charles River…
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      • Keeping my fingers crossed for her!

        That makes sense about volleyball, especially with the speed of the ball and the compact nature of the court. Most of the soccer concussions I’ve heard of come less from headers that player-to-player collisions, or things of that nature. But I never would have thought of sailing! Thanks for all the info!!

  2. Dee

    Was, thanks for sharing this story, Mia! My son doesn’t play sports outside of Kung Fu and they don’t do any real sparring, so sports concussions are not a concern. But he fell hard and hit his head on concrete when he was three. That was scary and at the time they said not to bring him to the hospital. It’s remained in the back of my mind, though. We were on vacation plus at three he didn’t have a lot of stress in life, so maybe that was protective. He has hit his head a few times since and we always joke that his head is what’s made of concrete. Most recently was reaching for something under a lab desk and reeling back into the desk. The community college where he was taking the class called the ambulance. It seemed fine, but it was another head blow, although I think the back of the head is better? Don’t know if I’m right on that. Head injuries are so scary, though! I hope your daughter is okay long term! ((hugs)) to both of you!

    • Hi Dee,
      Glad your son has a hard head! 🙂 It’s not necessarily where the impact to the head it, I’m learning but how the person’s body reacts. If his neck and shoulder muscles are strengthened and also not tight, he can absorb the impact with less damage. Glad he’s uninjured. Did you get the camera yet? I sent it with a surprise for Dylan! If the book is too young for him, just donate it!
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  3. Watched the video of your daughter playing and she is a major force. Are you going to let her continue to play soccer? From someone who has had concussions (not related to sports) and a brain injury, I know of the long-term effects later in life. I hope your daughter continues to do well and her brain heals.

    Good to hear that Maria is writing a MG novel with a protagonist suffering from head concussions — much needed story. The number of kids and teens suffering concussions and head injuries due to head injuries is staggering.
    Patricia Tilton recently posted…Separate is Never Equal by Duncan TonatiuhMy Profile

    • Hi Patricia,
      We don’t want her to play volleyball ever again but she wants to and she needs exercise in her life (and that is her preferred sport). We agreed that she can play in December IF… she has no symptoms and IF she switches to setter from libero which is a back row defense specialist and IF she plays down a level. I think her club volleyball will agree to this; I can’t take any more injury to her head and she can’t afford to miss any more school!
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  4. What a journey you have been on! I hope your daughter can heal completely soon. Thanks for sharing your experience and advice.
    MaryAnne recently posted…Tiggly Words Review: Reading, Storytelling, Vocabulary, and SpellingMy Profile

  5. Thanks so much for sharing. I can only imagine how tough these past months have been for you. Hope your daughter fully recover. Take care.

  6. Great informative post. My one classmate just had a concussion, so I will let him know about this. 🙂
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  7. Any

    Wow Awesome article also great and informative !!!
    Thanks for share
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  8. I am so sorry your daughter and your family had to go through this. I’m so thankful that things seem to be better.
    I’m also thankful that you decided to share your story with us, I feel like you’re helping so many of us parents. This could happen to any of our babies.
    Sending you and your family tons of love.

    • Thank you so much Mrs. AOK,
      You were so wonderful to share your experiences after the Charleston atrocity and your post and perspective always moves me. So… you get credit for inspiring me. And your Instagram feed is another way you brighten my day! Peace and hugs!
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  9. This is so interesting! I’ve dealt with concussions and wish I had taken my recovery more seriously instead of pushing through and trying to pretend everything was normal…
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    • Hi Akaleistar,
      I’m glad you are better and if you were able to push through, it’s good for recovery. The concussion research is a new field and seems to be changing pretty frequently. Cocooning now is recommended for a much shorter time — 48 hours — as opposed to a week or more like before. If the stress if going about your normal day doesn’t cause debilitating headaches, then you are right to push through because you will recover faster. Sounds like you did the right thing.
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