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Column: The Young and the Reckless

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:50 p.m. CDT
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Christopher Heimerman is assistant sports editor at Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at cheimerman@saukvalley.com and 800-798-4085, Ext. 552.

I was young(er), broke and uninsured.

Not the ideal time to suffer a concussion. That being said, I wish I knew then what I do now.

While playing noon hoops at my local YMCA, I was undercut going up for a layup. My dome graciously took the brunt as gravity pulled me, butt-over-tea kettle, to the floor.

I'm told it took a few minutes to help me to a bench along the court. As I "came to," I was holding a pack of ice against my noggin. I vaguely remember the thought, "How did I get here? … This is not my beautiful house. … This is not my beautiful wife."

Wait, that just turned into a Talking Heads reference. And one that Sports Editor Dan Woessner would enjoy. I digress.

Slowly, I pieced together what had happened. It was just after 1 p.m., and I had to work the copy desk at the Green Bay Press-Gazette at 3. I knew I should call the office, let them know what happened and go to the doctor.

As I mulled my options – which hurt, mind you (see what I did there?) – three-figure medical bills raced through my already-clouded mind. I thought if I went to the clinic, it would inevitably mean a scan. I give you Misconception 1.

I wasn't willing to fork over a week's pay for someone to tell me I had a concussion, which I already suspected.

Here's where I went from uninformed to blatantly reckless. I drove home. Why did anyone let me drive, by the way? Yikes.

Then I drove to work, where I made things worse.

Long story short, over the next 3 days, I chewed up 2 of my 6 allotted sick days. I'd go to work and plow through mind-numbing pain. Then I'd get an awful night's sleep and feel even worse the next morning. I know my mother is cringing as she reads this. Sorry, mum.

Meet Misconception 2: I didn't realize that my brain needed to heal. Instead of allowing it to do so, I was forcing it to work as I pored over dozens of newspaper pages and critically read story after story. It was as if I'd torn my rotator cuff and decided to keep playing long toss every day.

All being told, it took a little more than a week for me to feel completely out of the woods. If I'd only taken a few days off, hid the TV remote, put my cellphone in a lock box, killed the lights and rested, ... I probably would've been symptom-free in half the time.

That's a big reason why I'm so passionate about this series. See, I'm a nerd. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, where information on concussions flows like the salmon of Capistrano.

Yet I had several misconceptions about the injury. Like I mentioned during the last installment of "The Hidden Injury," we don't tend to look for things until we need them. And, as I illustrated, even when we need info, we might consider ourselves too busy to slow down and get informed.

Writing a few stories and publishing them in print and online isn't going to bring everyone into the light. But, with your help, word can spread. Tell everyone you know. If you're on Twitter like me (@CHeimerman_SVM), retweet my posts about the series to all your Tweeps.

Thanks for your help and for reading. It scares me to think about what could've happened if I'd taken another blow to the head when I went back 5 days after my spill and played noon hoops again.

And I'm not a finely tuned athlete, chock full of endorphins like the athletes we cover here in the Sauk Valley. They're going to be harder to convince that they can't play. Let's help them understand.

More online

To read more from our special series on sports concussion, please check out The Hidden Injury project page on saukvalley.com. Click here to visit.

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