Is It Really Worth It?

Being a goalie on a soccer team is one of the most demanding positions on the field.  Not only are you expected to not let any goals in, but you're also expected to willingly dive in front of players' feet, leaving your head completely vulnerable.  A goalie must be completely confident, dedicated, and fearless. That is exactly what Kristi Schurhammer, junior from Plainview, MN, is for the UW-Stout Women's Soccer team.  However, unlike most athletes at Stout, Kristi is very much so risking her life to play.  The same characteristic that many admired about her was the very thing that got Kristi in trouble, her fearlessness.  During September of 2011, her senior season of high school soccer, Kristi took a kick to the head in a game, which set a series of events in motion that changed her life forever.

A common misconception people have about concussions is that within a week or two, they are healed.  Although, true in some mild cases, this is not always accurate. Until recent studies, most athletes and coaches took concussions very lightly, and a lot still do. During that game in September, Kristi received her first concussion, but didn't know it. Not thinking anything was wrong, she decided to finish the game. It was not until a week later when Kristi was kicked again in the head that her symptoms began to show. This is something that not everyone fully understands. Although you may feel fine after heading the ball wrong or taking a hit to your helmet, you may not be fine, and it needs to be taken very seriously.

Things really started to take a bad turn for Kristi a month following the last incident. She started sleeping up to fourteen hours a day and had headaches that lasted a series of days. However, because Kristi had toughened out so many other injuries in the past, she had the same mentality with this injury. It wasn't until a month after she was experiencing these symptoms she finally voiced them. Being a couple months after her incident, they never related these back to those two incidences of her last soccer season. As the days went on, more symptoms started appearing and increasing in intensity. In addition to sleeping the majority of the day away, Kristi became very, very irritable and focusing in school became that much harder. After numerous doctor appointments and testings, they diagnosed Kristi with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which only accounted for some of her symptoms. Being that CFS does not have a cure, Kristi's doctor urged her to quit playing the sport she has been playing for her whole life. Soccer had become such an intricate part of Kristi's life that she resisted and tried out for the college soccer team her freshman year.

It was not until freshman year, Kristi was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).  Post Concussion Syndrome often gets misdiagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is why most people have not heard of PCS.  With the diagnosis of PCS, Kristi's future of playing soccer, driving, or even continuing her education was jeopardized.  There is no cure for PCS, and it is extremely likely Kristi will have to deal with these symptoms for the rest of her life.  These symptoms Kristi experiences daily now include tremors, general fatigue, fatigue from socializing, depression, balance issues, memory loss, and many more. Again, Kristi was encouraged by family, friends, and medical professionals to quit playing soccer immediately, but her dedication to the sport and her teammates is too strong and something to be admired.  

That one day in September on the field has proven to be one of the impactful moments of Kristi's life.  Because of that one simple decision to keep playing, her life has been forever changed.  So many athletes make this same mistake.  They brush off concussions or talk about them as if they are not that big of a deal, but this is not the case at all.  Concussions are extremely serious, and if not treated correctly, they can be life-threatening.  So next time you sustain an injury to your head, I challenge you to ask yourself, "Is it worth it?" 

Photo Credit: Reid Meyer