I've had three concussions in roughly the last 20 months and all of mine were joyfully suffered while snowboarding. I say joyfully because it almost doesn't matter what happens when I snowboard--I love it.
That's the mentality most of us carry when we're up on the mountain and I'm sure it's similar to all of the football players getting their heads knocked around. Quitting doesn't make sense when you're doing something you love, particularly when it's your identity.
One day in early 2011, I puffed my chest up and followed my buddy Stevie G into the terrain park. Having never gone over a ramp or a rail before, I approached cautiously. Stevie banked toward the intermediate area and threw a 360 off the first ramp. It looked so easy! Unfortunately I missed the memo that Stevie was a prodigy who did a backflip in his first month.
After seeing his landing, I followed Stevie over the ramp. A half second in and I noticed my board was above my eyes. Time froze as I gathered myself and realized pain and I were about to become closer than ever. I remember my tailbone hurting and thinking I had been in a deep sleep.
I didn't know where I was, only that I continued to slide on my back headfirst down something that made a swoosh sound. I heard laughing but couldn't find where the sound came from so I sat up. My glasses fell right down on my face as I turned and saw some people looking at me. A guy in a red jacket asked me if I was alright, I managed to nod my head and grunt a little. I left out that it took me until after I answered to understand it was Stevie and that I was snowboarding.
I got to the bottom and a friend of mine told me I probably wasn't hurt and needed to do two more runs. Why not? When you're concussed, it's easy to be convinced of virtually anything. The first run post-concussion felt odd, but I couldn't place it. On the second run, I vividly remember losing my mind. I had some decent speed (or so I thought) and as I was boarding down a pretty steep run, I felt as if something hit me in the side of my head. I felt dizzy and couldn't find the ground. That's right, while snowboarding I couldn't find the ground. I almost threw up.
After again forgetting where I was, I stopped and laid down in the middle of the slope very lost and very confused. I closed my eyes and held the ground with my hands so I knew the ground existed. It was a real comfort. My head then started to vibrate so hard I thought it might fall off, I just wanted everything to end. I grew panicky when I noticed I was alone. I had to get to the bottom.
Eventually I made it and as luck would have it, the ski lift stopped about 5 times on the way up to the hotel. I kept getting more and more sick every time it jolted from a stop. People talking irritated me because I couldn't find them if they were outside a 3 ft radius. Everything got cloudy past arm-length and the noise only added confusion.
The next few hours were blurry. I remember seeing Stevie and then sitting in a chair in someone else's room. Someone told me not to sleep for three hours and then woke me up within seconds after I sat down. I walked down a hall to visit some friends and attempt to keep myself awake. I later learned they were about 100 feet away when they asked what was wrong. I tried to play it off and said I was fine. They noticed I wasn't because apparently the wall held my entire left side up and my right arm was out ahead of me on the wall pointing me down the hallway. I thought I was walking straight.
Babysitter #2 took me to the swimming pool to sit in a chair there so he could watch me. I ended up swimming because I knew I would fall asleep within about 10 seconds of sitting down. Once I got in the pool, I noticed if i stood, I would sink. If I swam I was fine. It was this great big pool, you know the type? 3 feet deep and I was sinking. That panic from before started to settle back in. This is the type of behavior that happens when you have a concussion. My body needed constant interaction or it would shut down.
I followed my friends to the bar across the lobby from our housing so they could watch me. I loved it. The music covered up all the weird noises and a few hours later I went to sleep. When I woke up, I noticed my neck hurt but I otherwise had no immediate memory of the concussion until I took a shower and noticed my head hurt when the hot water fell on it.
The next few days were very slow. I felt groggy and disoriented but it all eventually went away. Headphones helped me walk through crowds by limiting the total noise. Loud bass killed me but normal music helped immensely. My neck, my back and my bruised tailbone healed and I eventually learned how to correctly leave a ramp.
The next two concussions weren't as bad and I'm proud to say I've learned that helmets are, in fact, not just for looks. There's many stories of people having a side go numb, or seeing sounds. Some even catch an ambulance ride and don't wake up until the hospital. Concussions can be very, very dangerous. Conversely, some people only get a light headache or see stars for a few seconds and then they're mostly good to go.
If you have any concussion stories please share in the comments, or hit me up on twitter @BCCBrandon .