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Olympic Gold Medalist Presses for Brain Injury Awareness

Olympic Gold Medalist Presses for Brain Injury Awareness

(Copyright AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 03 August 2016 03:13 PM

Briana Scurry’s career as an Olympic Gold and World Cup winning soccer goalie was ended by a concussion and neck injury but she now has a new mission – spreading the word about traumatic brain injury.

“Talking about brain injury makes people uncomfortable. They don’t want to talk about it. But we need to talk about it because there are facts that people need to know,” Scurry tells Newsmax Health. “And No. 1 is the fact that, if you’re a highly competitive athlete, you will end up with a concussion at some point.”

Scurry is retired, but up until 2010 she was a professional athlete until she suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a game. Since then, she has been on a crusade to protect players, including elite athletes like the ones who will compete in the Summer Olympics that begins Friday in Brazil.

Every year about 1.7 million people in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Of these, 52,000 die. TBI is also contributing factor in about one-third of all injury-related deaths. Such an injuries can range from a mild concussion to a severe head injury.  Symptoms can also vary, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. 

There's been growing concern about head injuries in boxing and football, but now studies show they also happen in sports that are not considered violent, including soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and water polo.

It's also known now that repeated head injuries can lead to a degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can lead to death, depression, and dementia.  Last year, the National Football League agreed to a $900 million settlement to retired players showing evidence of the condition. 

The winner of two Olympic gold medals and a World Cup with the U.S. team, Scurry was chasing a low ball in a professional soccer game when she was kneed in the side of the head.

“I know I blacked out for an instant and I was on the ground. It started to get a little bit fuzzy and I knew there was something wrong,” she says.

At first Scurry and her doctors assumed she had suffered a mild concussion and would be fine with rest.

“That is usually what happens, but not in my case. I was one of the 10 to15 percent of people who sustained a serious brain injury, but no one realized it at the time,” she recalls.

After that injury, Scurry's life changed. She suffered daily, intense piercing headaches, lack of concentration, memory, and balance problems, along with a feeling of disconnectedness.

“I was anxious and depressed every day and I wondered if I’d ever get better,” she says.

Finally, in 2013, she found Dr. Kevin Crutchfield at Georgetown University Medical Center, who diagnosed her as having suffered a severe head injury. Following bilateral occipital lobe surgery to relieve her headaches, Scurry began a slow recovery process and today is doing well.

But the experience changed Scurry's viewpoint.

“Before I was injured, my perspective was getting hit was ‘It’s no big deal, I’ll shake it off, I’ll be fine.’ But now I know differently, and getting hurt myself changed my whole attitude,'' she says.

It was around this time that Scurry began researching the problem of TBIs and athletes particularly pertaining to women, who have been overlooked, she says. 

“I read an article that stated that one of every two female youth soccer players will suffer a concussion while playing. I realized that the number of reported cases were likely understated and probably didn’t account for the players who had suffered multiple concussions, like I had,” she says.

The more she read, the more concerned she became.

“Now that we have that data, I think the problem has come to a critical point in awareness. This is why the NFL had to address it, and TBI’s are becoming an important issue in other sports as well,” she says. 

Scurry is also on a crusade to raise awareness about such dangers when it comes to children and young people. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 248,418 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in 2009 for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or TBI.

“I am concerned about children that are playing pee wee football and youth sports. These are children so young that their brains aren’t even developed yet. If parents are going to let their kids play, need to educate themselves, and not make the coach the lone person responsible for your child’s welfare and health,” she says.

Despite all she’s been through, though, Scurry remains glad that she chose to compete in professional sports. 

“Sports has given me so much in my life,” she says, adding, "I’m just telling people that they need to be aware of what traumatic brain injury is and what to do if it happens to you.”
 

© 2021 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.


Headline
With the Olympics getting underway, Olympic Gold Medalist Briana Scurry is on a campaign to alert other athletes to the dangers of severe head injuries.
Briana, Scurry, Traumatic, Brain, Injury, TBI, Olympics
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2016-13-03
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 03:13 PM
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