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Ringing reflections - Concussions, what NOT to do!

By Genevieve Hargrave, G Unit
Sun State Roller Girls
Team Australia 2014

There was an almighty ringing in my ears, a monotone sound like a bell that never stopped. It felt like someone had placed a vice around either side of my brain and was tightening it up slowly. I opened my eyes to three blurry fluro-yellow figures standing over me, ‘can you hear me?’ somebody asked. In a dazed state I opened my eyes and tried to focus my vision on the first aid officers kneeling over me, I managed to croak out the words, ‘my head’.

I tried to lift my arms towards my helmet to loosen the strap. My arms didn’t agree and remained on the sports court next to my torso. A watery-like substance – later confirmed as my own tears – streamed down either side of my face and dripped onto the floor.

I am not proud of what happened next, I think about it often and wonder why lady luck was on my side that night.

Slowly but shakily I regained control of my limbs, I lifted my arms and removed my helmet. Unable to control my own head, it flopped to one side. I felt like the whole world was spinning.

Two minutes ago, I stepped up to the jammer line, star on my head and scored lead jammer status and we ended up in a power jam (YES!). With less than ten minutes left on the game clock, I skated around the apex keen to grab some points; I sustained two direct blows to my head. The first was a ‘clothesline’ style impact at full speed, the opposing skaters’ elbow connected directly above my eyebrows dropping me straight to the ground where the back of my head hit the polished wooden floor. Thud… I lost consciousness momentarily.

After the incident, I managed to skate off the track and into the medic’s area where they did not allow me to return to my bench. The first aid officers asked me many questions (of which I cannot recall) and shone lights in my eyes. My pupils were dilating rapidly; I was generally confused and found it difficult to string sentences together. I was strongly encouraged to go to the emergency department, I thought I knew better. The next morning I was meant to get on a 6:30am flight to Melbourne to visit my parents. I didn’t want to go to the emergency room in case they said I couldn’t fly. How stupid could I be? – But wait it gets worse!

I had driven my new car to the bout venue (a brand new Jeep Wrangler – drool), my boyfriend Zac had driven his car separately. I didn’t want to leave my car parked at the venue so I convinced Zac that I was ok to drive, he didn’t really agree. 

I hopped in the car and drove myself to the after party (2min drive down the road). After multiple glasses of water and many friends expressing their concerns over my dazed look, I got started getting annoyed and said to Zac, “that’s it! Let’s go”.

I had probably driven between Albany Creek and New Farm over 100 times; however I got behind the steering wheel and completely blanked. I couldn’t remember which direction to drive in. I called Zac and said “do you mind driving first and ill follow you?” – could I have possibly been more stupid?

I did not go to the emergency department, I did not seek medical advice, and I hopped on that plane to Melbourne the next morning. My Mum wanted to take me straight to the emergency room as I was not behaving in a normal way, I talked her out of it again convincing her that I was fine.

In the two weeks following I found it difficult to string sentences together, I would start telling Mum a story and then stop halfway as if I had already finished, punchline and all. I had intense headaches that lasted a good month after the injury. Still I thought, “oh well it’s too late to seek medical advice now, if I was going to die it would have already happened.”

There are many things I regret about how I dealt with the concussion. Starting with leaving my helmet on straight after the impact, it was supporting my neck – I could have had a spinal injury. I should have sought medical advice at the emergency department and WHAT WAS I THINKING DRIVING MYSELF HOME? I had put my own life and the lives of others at risk.

Two years on, a little older and a little wiser (I suppose…) I have implemented a number of strategies that not only prevent concussion but also assist in recognising the signs and symptoms.

  • Upgraded helmet – I invested in an ice hockey style helmet, after some research I found out that my skate park style helmet had not undergone any kind of safety testing.
  • Educated myself on concussions, the symptoms and risks  – there is some good sports specific information available online at www.stopconcussions.com.
  • Familiarised myself with my leagues’ policy on concussions and returning to game play
  • If concussion is suspected, go to the emergency department – post haste.
  • And finally, if you are concussed your ability to think logically and make rational decisions is completely diminished.  You cannot rely on yourself to make decisions, not one bit, no chance sir.

Despite being incredibly embarrassed about this story, I wanted to share this story of stupidity with the wider roller derby community to spread the message of safety within this full contact sport that I love. I want to remember this time in my life; roller derby has brought me many highs and many lows, all of which have helped make me the person I am today.

Please look after your noggin, invest in a good quality helmet that has a safety rating and dig out your leagues policy on concussions. Take care

Thank you Roaringstorm Photography for the use of the images and this amazing shot of G Unit's face as she falls through the legs of a Referee! See More

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