For someone who played soccer since she was 6 years old, it was going to take something extreme to force Morgan Kaylor out of the sport she loves. Unfortunately, that extreme thing did happen. She experienced three concussions in less than a year.
The first concussion occurred in May, at the end of the spring club season. Morgan was hit in the head with a soccer ball that was struck from about five feet away. She was so dazed that the referee had to lead her off the field. The effects of this concussion were severe and hit her immediately.
The second concussion occurred in late August at the beginning of the high school season when she got kicked in the head while down on the ground during a soccer game, but no one realized she had been kicked. Morgan finished the game and came off the field throwing up. The symptoms were not the same as the first concussion, and given that no one had realized she had been kicked, the thought that this could be a concussion never even crossed her mind.
She didn’t feel quite right after, but chalked it up to dehydration. “It was a very hot day and intense game and I thought it had to be related to that,” said Morgan. She seemed to feel better after just a couple days.
The third concussion occurred when she was taking a routine header out of the air just a week or so later. This was minor contact, but afterward she was not able to tolerate light or sound and had horrible headache pain.
“I went home and started having balance issues. I couldn’t walk down the hall without holding on to the wall” she said. “All I wanted to do was lay down in a dark room and hope it went away.”
“What I do remember about that period was I would cry randomly, felt very frustrated and often felt like I ‘wasn’t there.'’’
Morgan Couldn't Take It Anymore; She Sought Treatment
Morgan eventually found her way to Emily E. Dixon DO, of the TriHealth Orthopedic and Sports Institute.
“Morgan was initially treated with cognitive and physical rest (i.e. school accommodations and no soccer/contact sports). She is an honors student and was really struggling with the cognitive work. She also had a lot of balance and dizziness issues,” Dr. Dixon says. “We referred her to PT-vestibular rehabilitation at Good Samaritan Hospital. With rehab and medication, she slowly improved but it took a few months.”
Dr. Dixon and her team worked with Morgan’s parents and teachers to help her with her school work and get some of her assignments extended.
“We decided at the end of her treatment that playing soccer may not be the best for her in the future. She switched to a non-contact sport, tennis. She did great, but she is a great case to show that multiple concussions can cause problems, and have very extended symptoms,” Dr. Dixon points out.
Morgan’s mom, Tracy Kaylor, said she never understood how serious and how life-changing a concussion could be until she watched Morgan crawl through this painful and terrifying process.
“The concussion may not have been life-threatening in the conventional sense, but the treatment that Dr. Dixon provided truly saved Morgan's life and allowed her to get back to living the life of a happy, healthy teenager,” says Tracy.
While Morgan misses playing soccer, she continues to compete in athletics. “I made the tennis team having never really played it before,” Morgan says. “My days of contact sports are over.”
Q&A with Dr. Dixon on Confussion Facts
Question #1: What Are the Signs of a Concussion?
Answer: There are several signs: headache, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, feeling foggy. You do not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion, but may have some amnesia about what happened.
Question #2: What Else Should People Know About Concussions?
Answer: Concussions can have a variety of symptoms, and sometimes these don't show up for 24 to 48 hours. I think education on symptoms of a concussion is important. If your child athlete is not acting right, or complaining of symptoms, they need to be treated and evaluated for a concussion by a specialist.
Question #3: Is There Any Way to Prevent Concussions?
Answer: There is really no way to prevent them. If you have an aggressive athlete who always tackles with their head, you can work on coaching and tackling. The other is to just avoid head to head contact or head to body contact (examples diving headers in soccer).
Helmets and mouth guards can help protect from skull fractures, and can decrease the severity of the concussion, but won't prevent it.
The most important thing is that we want athletes to be active and play sports, as there is so much to learn from sports. However, if you have an athlete who has had multiple concussions, and severe ones, sometimes it is best to have them focus their athletic abilities on a non-contact sport.These are athletes, so just telling them to not play sports can be detrimental and cause depression, etc. You have to work with them to find something they can be passionate about to channel that energy.