Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled Soccer Broke My Brain

Check out this powerful story over at Aeon by Rebecca Ruiz:

It's a late summer day in 1998 during pre-season training for the women's soccer team at Seattle University. I'm 17 years old, a freshman fullback on the up-and-coming National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)team. After a lackluster start, I'm working to prove myself. I've let nerves shake my confidence and I can see both my coach and fellow teammates look at me as if to ask why I'm here at all.

We're doing a drill and I'm standing with my back to a lanky senior. Another player is poised to send me a pass from 10ft away. This exercise should be simple: don't let the senior steal the damn ball from behind. She towers above my 5ft 5in frame and throws her bony elbows. I get low and try to cut off her angle. The ball comes sliding into my feet and suddenly she loses her balance and lurches forward into my back. I fall face-first toward the ground. My chin absorbs the impact of my body and hers.

The grass and goals are spinning when I stand up. My vision is laced with black spots. It is alarming, but I make an athlete's calculus, measuring these symptoms against the need to show some grit to this skeptical audience. After a brief break, I rejoin practice. Passes and players ricochet past me and I can't get anywhere quick enough. I can't read plays as they unfold. The black spots linger. I've slammed my brain hard against my skull.

About 250,000 young athletes are treated annually in an emergency room for a sports-related concussion. Those with the luck to avoid our fate fear that it is only a matter of time before an off-kilter tackle or mid-air collision comes for them, too. They know that a concussion can cause lasting damage, forcing them to choose between their brain and being a competitor who refuses to quit.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter