In an interview with BuzzFeed after she spoke on a panel about concussions in youth sports, longtime women’s national soccer team goalie Briana Scurry said that she has felt “disconnected” from herself since an opposing player collided with her during a Women’s Professional Soccer regular season game in April of 2010. Scurry, who was playing for the Washington Freedom, remembers scooting out of the goal grab a ball in the first half against Philadelphia’s squad when an opposing player’s knee slammed into the side of her head (“she thought that was her ball, and that’s what you do”).
The next thing Scurry recalls is being on the ground. She had the ball in her hands and threw it out to the field. Then things went downhill quickly. The backs of jerseys, she said, were blurry. There were two balls. She had a headache. At halftime she told a trainer what was happening and they summoned the doctor from the Philadelphia team.
“That was basically it,” she said. “I never returned.”
She realized she was probably never going back on the field, she said, as the days of feeling ill from the concussion turned into weeks. And then months. “I’ve been hit in the head before, but (this time) a couple of days had gone by and I wasn’t getting better, I was feeling weird,” she remembered. “Sensitivity and talking, like these guys moving here, walking, me talking to you, really really heightened. I couldn’t understand it. And it wasn’t getting better.
“I couldn’t possibly imagine myself back in the goal,” she said. “And that was it. When I couldn’t picture myself in there. It’s my head. What am I going to do, ice it?”
In the two years since Scurry played her last game, discussion of concussions has skyrocketed, though soccer’s safety initiatives have always been comparatively forward-thinking. For more than a decade, international soccer governing bodies have required baseline testing, which measures a few key indicators of reaction time, memory capacity, and mental processing speed that can then be used to judge the severity of a later head injury.
The panel that Scurry spoke on was part of an initiative announced by the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation to bring baseline testing to schools. And Scurry’s wasn’t the only non-football athlete present to discuss post-career concussion symptoms. Retired Rangers’ goalie Mark Richter’s career ended in a similar way to Scurry’s – a knee to the head while he was trying to collect the puck. Like Scurry, he said he couldn’t imagine himself getting back on the ice even weeks after the injury despite having no previous desire to give up the game.
“The only thing that made me think about retiring was how horrible I felt,” he said.
For Scurry, the weeks and months of recovery have now turned in to years.
“I’m still trying to get back to me,” she said. “I appear a certain way to people, but I’m not the same person I was before I got hit.”