The multiple concussions I have suffered have affected every aspect of my life, from my schoolwork to my athletics to my personal relationships. My life has been negatively impacted mentally, physically, and emotionally. My once promising hockey career has ended too soon; my ability to concentrate in school has been compromised significantly; my sleep patterns have been interrupted; my personality has changed. In short, my life has been put on hold … and no one knows how long this will last or whether there will be any permanent damage.
With the help of my doctors from the University at Buffalo Concussion Clinic and Erie County Medical Center, I have made a good deal of progress in the past several months dealing with my symptoms, and I am optimistic that I will return to normal in the very near future. However, I will never be able to play hockey again because of the danger of another concussion, which could be devastating. This is the hardest part for me to accept because hockey has been such an important part of my life since I was 2 years old. That is why I have decided to try to turn this negative into a positive by choosing a career helping people with concussion-related injuries. I’m not sure how I will accomplish this goal – maybe by becoming a coach, trainer, or even a doctor – but I know I want to help any way I can. I hope my experiences and perspective will make me more effective in treating and assisting those suffering from these serious injuries
Youth Hockey Player
I played in the NHL for 15 years and in that time sustained anywhere between 11 and 15 concussions. Several were minor but some were major. There are so many different concussion symptoms and I’ve had most of them. The nausea, blurred vision, seeing “dots”, headaches, sensitivity to light, tiredness, moodiness, irritability, and even temporary blindness. Throughout my playing career I never gave these symptoms a second thought because I was always taught at an early age to be a warrior – to never give in to injury – and I was told “you are tougher than that”. Even though I suffered several concussions, the last two were the worst. I played through blindness in my left eye and vomiting … just so they wouldn’t take me out.
NHL Analyst and Former Player
“If I could tell youth athletes one thing, it would be to take care of your health. If you’re suspected of having a concussion, don’t go back into the game, no matter how you feel when the adrenaline is flowing.
It makes me feel proud when I hear about Lystedt Laws being passed in other states. Sharing my story is important — I don’t want anyone else to live through what I’ve had to live through every day.
I take it one day at a time and feel better most days. I’m motivated by the friends and family who believe in me.”
“There is no one tougher than my son. Sometimes players and parents wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Battling pain is glamorized. Zack couldn’t swallow or hold his head up. Strength is seeing Zack stand up out of his wheelchair and learning to talk again.”
Victor Lystedt, Zackery’s father
Zackery Lystedt is a 20 year old who suffered multiple concussions while playing in a junior high school football game in October 2006, which resulted in severe brain trauma. In and out of a coma for three months and unable to move for more than a year, Zackery had to relearn how to speak, move, eat, drink – all the things most take for granted.
Zackery has been an advocate of concussion prevention and with the help of his attorney, developed a first-in-the-nation legislation requiring written medical clearance following a concussion, before returning to practice or competition. The law, known as “Lystedt Law,” has served as the model legislation for 48 states and has received the endorsement and support of the American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the NFL.
The Lystedt Law contains three essential elements:
1. Athletes, parents and coaches must be educated about the dangers of concussions each year.
2. If a young athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he/she must be removed from a game or practice and not be permitted to return to play. When in doubt, sit them out.
3. A licensed health care professional must clear the young athlete to return to play in the subsequent days or weeks.
With the amount of head injuries in sports today we need to continue our efforts to bring awareness to players, coaches, trainers and parents. We can only do that through continued research on the effects and prevention of concussions.
Pat LaFontaine, former NHL player
NHL Analyst and Former Player
Philip was a sports nut. He played hockey and lacrosse and after he had his sixth concussion, when he was knocked unconscious, he was not able to play sports again. The concussions affected his life completely. Sports were everything when he wasn’t in school, so that was pretty significant. Philip’s last concussion was so severe that he had terrible migraine headaches, vertigo, nausea and wasn’t able to read. Philip was a very good student and his schooling went right down the tubes. He couldn’t focus, he had to take incompletes because he couldn’t sustain any kind of concentration or attention and he had incredible depression. He lost his identity – he wasn’t able to read or play sports. After a lot of therapy, Philip graduated from Canisius High School and will attend Loyola University in New Orleans in the fall. His symptoms have greatly improved. Concussions have affected his social life – Philip is not the same person that he was. It’s been a long road. He’s not the same boy – he’s got moodiness, he’s unapproachable, he’s very angry. I had this really great son who had everything going for him and he lost it all. The biggest thing I learned from Philip’s terrible experience is that all kids want to do is get back on the ice or the field. Never trust when they say they are fine. Concussion research is incredibly important – what’s happening with bringing all of this information to the forefront is imperative.
mother of Philip Kane
Quotes from Philip Kane:
When asked about how concussions have affected his life:
I have a lot slower processing speeds, so that makes school a lot harder. I have to have extended time for tests and assignments. Because of the last concussion, it was a definitely a possibility that I couldn’t graduate because it was a lot between the headaches and all of the symptoms, but we got it done and I graduated and it feels good. It was a relief honestly. I walked across the stage and I literally opened it to make sure there was a diploma inside!
Concussions also impacted my relationships with people, especially my friends. I’m very moody so I took it out on my friends and my family and it’s put a lot of stress on my relationships and I lost a few really good friends because they weren’t around to see me go through it which was hard. The other big side effect of concussions is depression and I struggled with that a lot this year.
When everything started it was very difficult for me to deal with the problems because I didn’t know how to handle it. You couldn’t do anything about it. I had to sit there and wait. With time it got better and I got passed it and figured out to deal with it.
You have to try and keep busy. If I didn’t keep busy I would probably revert back into depression. I work a lot and hang out with friends before I go to school so it keeps me busy.
When asked about how concussions affected his relationship with his mom:
It’s really put a strain on our relationship. I think she wants to try and protect me still and be motherly but not only is it something you can’t do anything about but at the same time I’m growing up trying to be an adult.
I think it’s really important to research concussions because there’s not a whole lot that we do know at the exact time that they happen. That was always the biggest struggle. My doctors always said to go home and take it easy and give it time and it was difficult to not do anything to help. It would really help with preventing them which is ultimately what needs to be accomplished.
When asked if sports are too physical:
Hockey is doing a good job. They’re moving toward no tolerance with hits from behind, etc. I think that the games themselves are good, it’s the personalities in the games and it’s people taking it too far. All my concussions were from hits from behind because I was unsuspecting and in a vulnerable position. Hitting is a part of every game and you can’t take hitting away from the sports because it’s such a big part of the game.
When asked what advice he would give to young athletes:
Be careful—there’s no shame in saying “I’m hurt,” if you’re hurt. I definitely went back in games too early but I didn’t want to let my team down but that was honestly one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made because that screwed me up. I had a scholarship for lacrosse for college. I was so upset that I had my mom call and tell the coach that I wouldn’t be able to play.