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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

He always took the blows in stride: Multiple concussions in athletes

In his years as a Harvard University defensive tackle and a professional wrestler, Chris Nowinski has been leveled by a helmet-to-helmet collision, based in the chin, and kicked in the head. He has been knocked unconscious, seen double, and forgotten where he was or what he was supposed to be doing.

Chris says he always took the blows in stride, getting back into play as soon as he could, sometimes within minutes of the injury. He handled it the way he'd handle any other injury.

"Guys work through all sorts of pain," he says. "If everyone took a day off because of pain, no one would show up to work. I just considered it like a normal bruise."

But concussions, he would find out later, aren't like any other injury. The cumulative effect of six concussions ended his career with World Wrestling Entertainment in 2004 and left him struggling with chronic headaches and memory problems.

Today, Chris is a crusader, raising awareness about the dangers of concussions through the Boston-based Sports Legacy Institute.

Multiple concussions also have had serious lasting effects for Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowoys quarterback; San Francisco Giants catcher Mike Matheny, New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, and NFL players Andre Waters and Terry Long, among others.

Advice for parents of high school football players: Get your son to a physician if he shows these symptoms after a concussion: headache, dizziness, problems sleeping, imbalance or lack of coordination, fatigue, sensitivity to light or noise, difficulty remembering or concentrating, difficulty thinking clearly, work-finding difficulty, irritability/moodiness/ impulsiveness, or feeling depressed or anxious.

Read another athlete’s concussion story, or read Lisa Phillips' source story in the September/October issue of Neurology Now.

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