Headway Foundation: A National Nonprofit Dedicated To Combating Concussions

     For those of you who don’t know, in September of 2018, I received a traumatic brain injury as a result of an assault and soccer injury happening hours apart, resulting in 2 successive concussions.  Ever since that night, my life has been turned upside down in more ways than anyone can imagine. I never realized how much I took for granted prior to my injury. For example, being able to read for more than 5 minutes, remember basic information such as my phone number, and being able to drive. I am now a little over 2 years post-injury, and although, I have made tremendous steps in my recovery, I am nowhere near “normal” or “recovered.”

     For the last two years, my life has revolved around my brain injury and the long-term effects, so I decided to embrace it as much as I could. I now work in a research lab on-campus looking at concussions and will be at the NIH next summer (hopefully) continuing my research. I am pre-med and hope to become a neurologist with focuses on either sport neurology (concussions and CTE) or brain injuries associated with military accidents. One of the things I am most proud of has been working for Headway Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on promoting a safer sports culture and combating the negative stigmas associated with concussions. 

    Headway was founded after each of the founders who are former collegiate hockey players, including an Olympian, faced a very difficult recovery following concussions and whiplash injuries. They soon realized that there is a lack of support for those who have a very tough recovery and they set out to change that narrative. The three main goals of Headway are to promote a safer sports culture, provide resources and support for patients, and enhance concussion evaluation protocols and accessibility. We aid those affected by the long term effects of concussions through the Concussion Circle and Brain Box program. For those who have trouble finding support during their recovery, they have the option to join our Concussion Circle support group. After signing up to participate, we send them a Brain Box filled with little “pick me ups” and tips to help them throughout their recovery.  We also make the newest science surrounding concussions more accessible and easier to understand. Furthermore, by promoting a safer sports culture, we are advocating for athletes to put their brains and health first. After all, it is just a game, whether that game is a pee-wee football game or an Olympic semifinal. Lastly, many are unaware of the long term effects of repetitive concussions, such as developing Post Concussion Syndrome, and the toll an injury takes on someone’s mental health. Headway hopes raise awareness about these long term effects so that it is almost considered common knowledge. There is not enough advocacy for those who experience these long term effects, so Headway spreads this message to as many groups as possible, including fellow athletes, the medical community, and the general public. 

    One of my personal goals I hope to accomplish with Headway is to have athletes and coaches have honest conversations about concussions. For example, I used to ignore concussion-like symptoms during a game because I felt that I would let the team down if I chose to speak up. The last thing I wanted was to disappoint my coaches, teammates, and myself. As the saying goes, “There is no I in team.” With that being said, your health always surpasses a game. If my coaches had an honest conversation about concussions with us prior to the season, I might have realized this fact sooner. Mental health is something that is not talked about nearly enough following a concussion, and so many people do not know how to ask for help. Headway wants to combat this stigma by sharing our mental health struggles following our injuries and emphasizing that you can not truly recover without seeking help for any and all symptoms (both physical and mental). 

     Concussion Awareness Week is the biggest event that we organize every year. From January 29th through February 7th, we will be working with thousands of athletes from around the world, helping shift concussion culture. Last year we worked with over 11,000 athletes and this year our goal is to reach over 25,000. These athletes are anyone from NHL players to youth rec leagues. Anyone and everyone can participate! We will distribute educational resources regarding concussions, encourage teams to openly talk about their recovery struggles, spread awareness about the long term effects associated with concussions, and promote a safer sports culture. One of the best ways to accomplish all of these goals is to have participants sign our New Tough Pact which encompasses all of these aspects while also encouraging athletes to advocate for themselves and their teammates if they see possible concussion symptoms. 

     This November we will be introducing a line of bracelets to help spread our overall message. According to Headway co-founder Paige Decker, “We will be launching a line of bracelets this winter that will have a multi-purpose impact. These bracelets will serve as a meaningful symbol of hope and strength for those recovering from concussions; a reminder to keep fighting, and to look forward to better days ahead. It will also serve as a reminder for athletes to take concussions seriously, and a show of support for any teammates, friends, or family members battling symptoms. Lastly, it will be an important fundraising mechanism to continue to fuel our efforts." Keep an eye out for this exciting new project in the coming weeks!

     If you are interested in learning more about Team Headway, don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected] or reach out to Headway directly: http://headwayfoundation.com/contact. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @Headwayfdn or check out our website for more information http://headwayfoundation.com/. If you are interested in making a donation, please visit http://headwayfoundation.com/donate