Concussions are serious. This I know from personal experience. My concussions changed my view of life. Thumps on the head are like that.
My first concussion happened in a cyclocross race. The track had 2 grassy mounds, both about 3-feet high and in close succession. You approached them at speed. Physics dictate that going over mounds on a bike pushes your body forward. (Think front wheelie.) I had done them numerous times in practice. I thought to myself, John, you had better keep your weight back going over these things during the race.
The thing about thinking during a bike race is that it is not so easy. So I forgot about keeping my weight back—or at least that is what I was told by my wife Staci, who was watching as I flew through the air and landed on my head at her feet.
I say it that way because I cannot recall anything about that race—not the start, not the accident and not how I asked the same stupid questions over and over. My first memory of that day was being in the ambulance. I remember thinking…why am I in an ambulance? Time was gone.
The CT scan was negative. I was discharged from the ER. I felt fine the next day. I was told to rest. I rode my bike the next day. I went to work the next day. I did not have headaches, balance problems or any slowing of thinking. I was also told that second concussions were worse.
Concussions were not so bad, I thought. I used to be really foolish.
My second concussion happened about a year later. It was a Tuesday night practice race. I had good legs. (In retrospect, I think having good legs is an independent risk factor for bike wrecks.)
It was time. The group had just reformed after a furious chase. I was in the drops. Coiled. Ready to go. A gap opened.
(What follows is second hand—because I cannot remember!) Just one of the 53 teeth in my front chain ring was bent in. When I stood to sprint, the chain jumped on the bent tooth. I flew over the bars and landed on my head.
What I remember next is looking up from the pavement at Staci. Uh oh, I thought, we were at least a twenty-minute car ride from our house. That meant I was gone for twenty minutes. Lost time again. My friends told me I was asking the stupid questions again, over and over.
They were right about second concussions.
This one was worse. My head hurt. I had nausea. The headaches lasted for weeks. I could think and I could work. But I could not easily lay flat or move my head through space. When I got up from a chair, bent over, or turned my head to look one way, the world spun. It was as if the world was still moving when I was still. I got used to getting up from bed slowly and putting two hands on the bed before I stood.
I had never had vertigo before. Vertigo stinks. The weird part was that I could ride. I was like the Parkinson’s guy who could not walk but could ride. Sit-ups or push-ups were utterly impossible.
One day you are riding off the front of the group at 600 watts, alive and youthful. The next day you are elderly, holding the bed with two hands while sitting.
It took a year before the dizziness stopped. A year.
The thing I most remember now about concussions is the notion of lost time. It makes you think about being dead. As in, if you die from a sudden event, like landing on your head, you don’t even know you are gone, or ever were. That is weird.
Some experts might cause such thoughts existential. I don’t know about that. Mainly it makes you think about not hitting your head again.
It also makes you think about all those young kids banging heads with each other on the football field while we watch in glee.
Parallax is when one the same image looks differently depending on the position of the lens.
My lens is that I don’t like seeing humans hitting their heads.
P.S. I am fine now.