MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A number of professional athletes battling post-concussion symptoms has brought attention to a growing issue.
And it’s not just among professional athletes. Each year, dozens of high school athletes are forced to drop out of their favorite sport due to a concussion.
Now there’s a new concussion support group that’s helping young athletes.
For Kayla Meyer and Matt Hovila, life is much different now. They appear healthy, but post-concussion symptoms linger to the point that neither is able to play the sport they love any longer.
“I’m dealing with headaches and migraines still, and fatigue,” said Matt. “My whole personality changed.”
Matt got his first concussion while playing football in fourth grade. He has had seven concussions since then, nearly all of them from playing basketball.
After a concussion in sixth grade, he went from being happy and getting straight As to being moody and nearly getting kicked out of school.
“I had headaches every day for three years probably. Migraines and vision changes, it’s really like you feel like a whole new person, and not in a good way,” Matt said.
He had hopes of playing basketball in college, but a concussion cut his senior year short at Bloomington Jefferson High School.
Kayla is only a sophomore at New Prague, but she hasn’t played hockey in more than two years thanks to two concussions in 10 months.
“It was awful. It was my first year of high school hockey too. The last time I was on the ice was December 16, 2009. It’s just etched in my brain, I won’t forget that,” Kayla said.
But instead of letting their injuries run their lives, Matt and Kayla are doing something different.
The two are meeting with other peers who are going through the same thing. It’s called “Connections for Concussions,” a support group formed by Matt and Kayla. Simply put, they are offering other teens a place to turn to.
“When I was going through it I didn’t have too many people in my life who understood it experience-wise. I kind of felt alone sometimes,” Matt said.
Here, athletes and other students who have suffered brain injuries can talk about the pain of no longer being able to play the sport they love. Also in some cases, no longer being able to go to school.
Kayla has taken her initiative to the Capitol, where she got the Youth Sports Concussion bill passed last year. This is even more personal. It’s about letting others know that there is hope.
“Your life is not over, you have a whole new life to live. Even if it’s changed now, you can have fun with people who understand what you are going through,” Kayla said.
The concussion support group will meet the fourth Tuesday of every month. Their first meeting was held at the Penn Lake Library in Bloomington. All members sign a pledge that vows to sit out of their activity until a doctor tells them it’s okay to play. March is also Brain Injury Awareness month.
The group hopes to one day have 100,000 signatures on its pledge.