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Monday, March 9, 2009
Heading for Trouble: Personal Account No. 1


Nicole suffered her first concussion during hockey practice.

[Ed.'s Note: In the latest issue of The Mag, senior writer Peter Keating examines the dangers of concussions for female athletes, who are 68% more likely to be concussed than their male counterparts. Here, Nicole Fresella, a high school senior in Bernardsville, N.J., gives the first in a series of five personal accounts from women who have suffered concussions on the field of play.]

As a goalie, your teammates look to you to save the game, and there's no greater feeling than taking the win that could have been determined by one or two saves.

Not only do I like the pressure and intensity of hockey, but the team is like a family, they help keep you motivated. Like any family, we have our good moments and our bad moments, but the memories we create are one's we'll remember forever—especially the bus rides.

Midway through my first year of high school hockey, I received my first concussion. I was hit in the jaw during practice. I started getting headaches, migraines that begin in the temples and then go all around my head. We made it to the championship game, the Kelley Cup, but because of my concussion, I wasn't even allowed on the ice.

The following year, I got another concussion when I was hit in the back of the head with a Tempurpedic pillow. Once again, it was halfway through the season, and again we made it to the championship. But because of my second concussion, I was not allowed on the ice.

Nicole now suffers from severe migraines that prevent her from even attending her team's games as a fan.

The headaches never went away. I tried to keep playing, but my migraines got so bad that in January of this year, I had to go to the emergency room. I've tried different things to deal with the throbbing—cold compresses, many different medications. I stayed quiet for five days, which helped. Then the first period of my first day back in school after the hospital, there was a fire drill. The clanging was piercing to me, and rattled around in my head.

Before my concussions, hockey was my life. I played for two different teams and was playing hockey five days a week. Now, in my senior year of high school, the last year I can play high school sports, I'm not allowed to play at all because of my migraines due to my concussions.

My migraines are so bad now that I now can't even go to my team's games, because the noise makes my head feel worse. Not only can I not play, but I cannot even support my team.

Many young athletes think that a concussion isn't anything to worry about, and I will admit that I used to be one of those people. After educating myself about concussions and how they really affect my body and brain, I want every young athlete to know that a concussion is not something to fool around with.

If you have a concussion, do not rush back into sports. Even the most gentle hit on the head could trigger another concussion, because once you receive your first concussion, you are a lot more susceptible to more concussions. I made the mistake of returning to sports too quickly, and now I am paying the price by not being able to play sports anymore.

Nicole Fresella is a high school senior in Bernardsville, N.J.