As Fall rolls around, we are reminded of events such as football, basketball, and contact sports, with concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) weaving their way in the conversation. What is interesting though, is that September 18th is rarely mentioned alongside the very sports that enable this life-changing injury. September 18th is named National Concussion Awareness Day in the United States, and the story of how it came to be is one of turning an unfortunate event into remarkable advocacy and strength.
It was a regular day in March 2014 for high schooler Brooke Mills, as she started a mandatory gym class.
Brooke would not know that this day would change the course of her life forever. To this day, Brooke can’t recall the exact details, but sometime during that gym class she was accidentally kicked in the head and knocked unconscious (Lessen the Impact). Brooke was diagnosed with a concussion, not expecting that the impact of the kick would be more severe than she was told. Having no real baseline testing for her concussion, Brooke was allowed to return to school, but the transition proved to be hard. Brooke would miss weeks of school, struggle academically, lack accommodations, and ultimately drop from an A student status (Lessen the Impact).
Beyond the initial symptoms associated with the injury, Brooke dealt with post-concussion symptoms for years, including headaches, memory issues, sensitivity to light, emotional instability, and more. This caused feelings of frustration, isolation, anger, and discouragement. To add to the issues that she was experiencing, socially, the believability of her having a traumatic brain injury was extremely low (Lessen the Impact). Brooke was taunted with accusations of faking the severity of her injury, showing that people truly don’t know the struggles and burdens associated with enduring an injury to the most important organ in our bodies. In a country where each year over 2.8 million people sustain a TBI, and about 50% go unreported, there needs to be more communal awareness of the graveness of this individualized and unpredictable condition (Lessen the Impact; Brain Trauma Foundation).
Brooke’s Advocacy Work
Brooke understood the seriousness of this, and she decided to do TBI awareness work in middle school and high school classrooms, developing curriculums to educate adolescents about the pathology of concussions, their symptoms, and how they are diagnosed in conjunction with the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire (Lessen the Impact; Maggie Hassan).
Founding National Concussion Day
As a result of Brooke’s TBI awareness work, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan introduced a bipartisan, bicameral resolution along with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in 2016 to recognize September 18th as National Concussion Awareness Day in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (Maggie Hassan). The day became recognized by other states and the National Brain Injury Association (Medium). Because of Brooke’s unfaltering advocacy, November 10th became New Hampshire Concussion Awareness Day, and Brooke even started a blog entitled, Finding My Way, which documents her TBI journey.
Through her advocacy, Brooke hoped to increase awareness of mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions), increase the reporting of sports concussions, and increase the allocation of resources to people experiencing post-concussive symptoms (Brain Injury Association of America).
What does Brooke’s story tell us?
Brooke’s story tells us that concussions aren’t just extremely mild injuries that go away completely and leave no trace of symptoms, but that they should be taken more seriously. Concussions are traumatic brain injuries and should be treated as such, or else more people will suffer unnecessarily. Increased knowledge of the severity of even “mild” traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions, may help to improve baseline testing, reporting, and decrease the chances of another concussion. More needs to be done.
How Power of Patients Can Help
Just like Brooke, Power of Patients endeavors to transform the way that concussions and/or traumatic brain injuries are identified, understood, defined, and treated across the world.
Through our free Dashboard, we’d like to showcase peoples individual symptoms and triggers so that they can accurately report any trends to their healthcare providers. Providers need to know that invisible injuries are valid, and more interest needs to be taken in their treatment. Power of Patients also aims to not only inform TBI patients about TBI care and clinical trials, but to change the social attitudes toward traumatic brain injuries through free education.
For National Concussion Awareness Day, Power of Patients is holding a fundraiser to help increase their efforts to continue to provide free resources to TBI patients, their caregivers, and the PCS and ABI community. Help us continue to do this work.