Realities of concussions among student-athletes real; JUTN soccer player shares story

KNOXVILLE— LoriAnne Collins, a sophomore at JUTN, strives to stay academically focused on her studies while being a children’s ministry major. However, an incident in the fall of 2016 made it more of a challenge to do so.

Collins was diagnosed with a concussion in September. She was hit on the back of the head with a soccer ball during a game, but did not notice the pain at first.

LoriAnne Collins, middle, standing with her friends Emily Zochling, right, and Nina Griffith, left, the night of receiving her concussion.

Throughout the game, Collins had a mild headache and felt dehydrated.

“During that game it was very physical and I just kind of fell a lot, but I thought it was me because I’m a clumsy person,” Collins said.

The headache she felt at the game continued the next morning. Three days later, while she was at practice, she lost her vision entirely.

“People were blaming it on the Sun going down,” Collins said, “but I knew it was not the Sun.”

A test the next day confirmed Collins had a concussion.

Her concussion lasted 16 weeks from the day she was diagnosed to the day she was cleared by the doctor.

“I still get symptoms,” Collins said. “I can’t really run anymore; I have to do 15 minute increments. Otherwise, I will black out. I have almost once before.”

Sensitivity to light and sound were Collins’ main concussion symptoms. She said even music played through her headphones caused headaches.

She said blurriness was the one symptom that kept coming back.

Since the incident, Collins has also had memory loss.

“My memory is still gone. I’m still struggling. But it’s coming back slowly,” Collins said. “School has been very hard, but I’ve been able to accomplish and get through it.”

Collins said her emotions have heightened since being diagnosed. She finds herself getting overly-sensitive about certain subjects.

“I’m not an emotional person, but since I got hit, my emotions have been through the roof,” Collins said.

She said her memory loss is a constant reminder of her concussion.

“[With the concussion] I couldn’t really remember tests. My mind was just blank,” Collins said. “All my teachers knew what was going on, so they gave me grace.”

Collins has pushed through the challenges of focusing academically, even though she has limitations.

“I won’t get easy things, so I have to have someone double-explain it to me, in easier ways,” Collins said. “Or I’ll just completely forget days that I studied for things.”

She does not struggle as much as she used to, and said she is doing better with concentrating.

She said sleep helped relieve the symptoms of her concussion.

“Definitely sleep and rest and getting time alone [helped relieve pain],” Collins said.

Although many of the symptoms, such as headaches, have dimmed down, she said she finds that loss-of-memory and blurriness remain.

Doctors have told her that she cannot run or participate in sports for several months.

“I probably won’t be doing sports,” Collins said. “I want to do softball, but who knows at this point.”

She advises student-athletes to be careful. In her case, no one knew how bad her concussion was, not even her doctors.

“Yeah, give it your all, but you have to be careful because otherwise you are going to get hurt,” Collins said. “If you do get a concussion… Do not take it lightly. Listen to what they [doctors] have to say.”

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