She takes meds every day just to be able to get out of bed and go to work and function like a normal 26-year-old.
Last fall after a neuropsychological evaluation put a name to what Long was already experiencing — she has mild to severe cognitive impairment in memory and concentration — she decided to start a blog. She figured no one would ever read it.
“It was more for my own therapy,” she said.
But about a month after she started writing, she heard from a gal living in Columbus, Ohio. Samantha Sanderson told Long that she too was a former college soccer player suffering with the aftermath of concussions.
They talked about what they were experiencing. The roller coaster emotions. The concentration problems. The feeling that no one understood their suffering because no one could see their injury. For the first time, Long felt like someone else knew what she was going through.
“I understand,” they said to each other.
Long had never heard sweeter words.
“When I say, ‘I’m having a terrible day,’” Long said, “Samantha knows what that means.”
The longer the young women talked, the more they realized that there had to be others like them. In a country where millions of kids and adults play sports, there had to be thousands silently suffering the effects of concussions. So much attention has been given to preventing and treating concussions. What about those who already have them?
Long and Sanderson decided to do something.
They took the name Long had used on her blog, “Life After the Game,” and launched a website on Jan. 1. It includes details of their experiences as well as an online support group.
They’ve already heard from numerous athletes, including a 16-year-old who has suffered two ugly concussions. Long and Sanderson have been sounding boards as the teenager tries to figure out what to do next.
Long admits that she has no idea where all of this will lead. She would love if every high school, middle school and competitive team had some sort of support group for those who suffer concussions. She lacked support for many years and knows that it would’ve helped her recovery.
Now, though, she knows that her recovery will never be complete. Her brain will always be injured, and her life has forever been altered.
“It’s very frustrating sometimes,” she said, “but you take it one day at a time.”
But now, she’s got help to get through those days. With “Life After the Game”, she’s also helping others who are trying to do the same.
“We want to create an environment where athletes during and after a concussion don’t feel like they’re alone,” Long said.
They may never recover, but they can get better.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
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Oklahoma native Lauren Long is co-founder of Life After the Game, a group working to educate and support athletes who suffer from the effects of concussions. Here’s how you can connect with the group:
• Website: www.lifeafterthegame.org
• Support group: lifeafterthegame.freeforums.org
• Twitter: @LATGconcussions
• Facebook: www.facebook.com/concussioncrisis