Who am I if not an athlete?

Emilie, I think it would be best if you did not return to school for the remainder of the semester. I also think that it would be a good idea for you to quit ringette for good”. Those words still haunt me to this day. Immediately, I burst out crying. How could this possibly be happening? My plan of the perfect university experience crumbled before my eyes. The worst part was that she looked at me and said “I know how you must feel….”. and I don’t remember the rest of the sentence because of how offended I was that she thought she could possibly relate to what I was feeling. She did not know, and she had no right to pretend like she understood.

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Jeff Brooks
Learn From My Mistakes

Looking back now, it’s easy to say how foolish I was but at that stage in my life, my concussion knowledge and the long-term effects they can have on your brain and cognitive ability were minimal. There was a moment where I had accepted that headaches, pressure and other physical symptoms would be a part of my everyday life that I would have to endure. My ignorance, wishful thinking, and lack of knowledge resulted in me not treating my rehabilitation seriously. In my mind, I never associated concussion problems with severe cognitive impairment later in life and I didn’t realize the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on someone who is trying to recover from concussion symptoms. These are only temporary solutions and prolong recovery, negatively impacting you in the long run.

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Jeff Brooks
Dear Concussions

You have been a part of my life for 11 years now. For as long as I can remember you have been here, but your presence was never wanted; it still isn’t. However, now I have learned how to live with you, even though I want you to leave me alone. I have been told that you will always be here, fighting me for the rest of my life.

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Jeff Brooks
Concussion Be Gone

The first week and a half that I began the daily exercises was terrible, I had pounding headaches, nausea, you name it I had it, but I persevered and did the workouts every single day. After that second week, I felt significantly better, better than I ever had before. I also changed my diet to become heavily plant-based and routinely did my vestibular exercises every morning. For the first time, I was seeing significant strides to a full recovery. As time went by, my setbacks became less frequent and my headaches decreased in severity. By August, I had gone one full week without any symptoms and by September I was completely symptom free and attended my first concert!

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Jeff Brooks
Supporting a Loved One

I remember days after games when Xavier could barely make it down the stairs, he would have to walk down sideways just to get down three stairs.  He would take a day or in some cases a half a day to rest and he would be back in the gym.  These were the signs I could physically see where the game left its mark. It wasn’t long after we met that his mental health took a downward spiral. I remember speaking to girlfriends who told me “He’s not acting right, you need to get away.” I stood there looking at the man I loved, the man who had the biggest heart of anyone I knew, the man who made me laugh and one of the only people who truly believed I was able to do more. I couldn’t just give up. I knew that the way he was acting wasn’t him, that there had to be more.

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Jeff Brooks
A Voice for Others

No matter how long you play, or how short of a term you have playing professional football, everyone goes out that exact same way. “Thanks for everything you did for the team, good luck in the future.” It was a really hard concept for me to grasp. I wish it sank in sooner that that’s the way it was going to be. You hear it as a young player but you don’t want to believe it, don’t want to accept that that is the reality.

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Jeff Brooks
"I'm Fine"

This concussion was particularly difficult – and a prime example of how each concussion is different. The first concussion I had struggled with the physical aspect; the fogginess, haziness and difficulty concentrating. But this one took an emotional toll on me. Physically I healed much faster with this one, within about a month the headaches subsided. But the emotional side effects lasted much longer. I had put myself under immense stress and pressure but the concussion exacerbated my mental state. I had heightened anxiety, moments of depression, large amounts of self-doubt, mood swings, and even a few panic attacks. I was frustrated, because I felt physically normal, but emotionally I was drained. However, I suppressed these feelings and continued on insisting that “I’m fine”. I finally came to the realization that I wasn’t fine, and that that was okay.

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Jeff Brooks
Don't Let Your Struggle Take What's Right in Front of You

The world needs to catch up with the effects of concussions and break down the stigma. I dealt with a lot of wrath, a lot of scrutiny, and at times had to be dealt with delicately due to the fragile subject. It was not an easy thing for me to share, but I put myself to the way side and wanted to think of others. I have received so many messages from people I don’t even know thanking me for coming out about my struggles, stating they feel the same way, but feel alone. That was my biggest fear - the feeling of knowing no one understands what’s going on in my head.

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Samantha Bureau
A Follow-Up Story: 8 Years Post Concussion

My last concussion was June 4th 2010. This was my 6th concussion, which occurred while waterskiing and had a major impact on my life. Although it has been 8 years since my accident, I can close my eyes and it feels like just yesterday that everything fell apart.

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Jeff Brooks
It's Better to Recover Fully than Push It

I tried to take charge of my recovery. I had my mom write down all my symptoms and keep track of what I did that day. But in the first few weeks, this didn’t really matter because doing nothing made my symptoms worse and since I was already doing nothing, I couldn’t really do anything less. So after two weeks of my symptoms not improving I became one of the 35% who don’t recover in the first two weeks.

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Samantha Bureau
Taking the Toughness Out of It

Unfortunately, I now sit on the couch watching my former teammates play in the CFL instead of lining up against them. My decision to try to be tough and play through concussions put an abrupt and unexpected end to my football career.

Up until 2012 I never let the fact that I was the little guy on the field make me feel small. That feeling was reserved for people who couldn’t take a hit, couldn’t bounce back up and couldn’t deal with the pain and physical nature of contact sports. I worked too hard to put myself in a position to succeed to ever feel small. At least that was true until 202012 when I suffered several severe concussions that made me realize just how small I could feel.

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Samantha Bureau
My Concussion Story: Enough Is Enough

On May 27th, Ottawa local Brent Sullivan will run the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon. But unlike many of the other participants, Brent will be running for a cause beyond his own fitness, pleasure, or competitive spirit. Instead, Brent is running as an ambassador for the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada to help raise funds for concussion outreach, education, and awareness.

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Samantha Bureau
For My Brother Michael: A Story Of Hope

Katie is a seasoned marathoner - 5 so far with two more planned over the next few months. But this year the Ottawa Marathon will be a lot more personal for Katie. This year she is running with her brother in mind. Katie’s brother Michael recently sustained his second concussion and is now on the road to recovery, uncertain of just how long his recovery will be this time around.

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Samantha Bureau
My Battle With Post-Concussion Syndrome

My name is Michael Corneau. I am 18 years old and I currently suffer from Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS). I am an avid hockey fan, a supporter, and a former player. I played competitive hockey for the majority of my career. I just loved the competition of driving around Eastern Ontario, the rivalries with certain teams, scoring that game-winning goal in the final seconds of the third period to put my team ahead, and doing it all with friends I’ve competed with my entire life.

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Samantha Bureau
Noggins To Noggins: Mackenzie's Year With PCS

I didn't realize how much I didn't like looking back on my concussion until I started writing this, but I want this to help people. I want people to understand what it's like to have a concussion, not just what it is. Maybe this will help someone understand what a teammate, a friend, or family member is going through. Maybe this will help someone that has a concussion know that they are not alone and that one day, they will beat this.

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Samantha Bureau