Dec
26

My Concussion Story…

By

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When a doctor diagnosed me with my first concussion –I was around twelve years old—it was no big deal. I was back to normal in little time, playing hockey again within the next day or two. There were no lingering symptoms other than the amusing memory of how strange I was acting –super talkative, forgetful and spaced out– in the dressing room the night I was concussed. I still remember the laughs of my teammates as I made light of the situation. We had a lot of fun with it.

Concussion two was not any different. Number three barely bothered me at all. I remember thinking to myself, what’s so bad about a concussion? I feel fine!

Concussion number four occurred while I was teaching a self defense class at a local high school. I was around twenty years old at the time. After the class I was rolling around with some of the guys, showing them some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques. Somehow I managed to misjudge the location of the ground and as I swung back for an arm lock and I cracked my head on the thin matted area they had set up for us. Again I became forgetful and spaced out for a short period of time but the following day I was my normal self.

A quick but really hard fall my head during a grappling tournament resulted in concussion number five for me. I had somehow managed to make it all the way to the finals with a really bag hangover from the party the night –and morning– before. I wasn’t at my best and I paid for it that day. Being twenty one at the time, I took it as a lesson for the future, and never did that again.

The only good part about the incident was when my vision cleared and as I was lying on the floor looking up, the hottest girl in the building had jumped over top of me to see if I was alright. With the haze that was my view and the buzzing sound ringing within my ears, I honestly thought she was some sort of angel. I’m guessing that she must have had some medical training to react like that. Regardless, I seemed to feel a little better immediately.

Over the course of the next week, things were different. I didn’t feel like training at all and I was having some issues with my vision. Anytime I would look downwards things seemed off, a little blurry and it seemed to take an extra amount of time and effort to focus on objects on the ground or off in the distance.

Regardless, I was back in the gym doing my thing after a week or so.

Several years later I sustained another concussion, raising my total to six, in training. Two months! For two months I couldn’t train, lift weights or run a treadmill without feeling nauseous. Even worse I had to pull out of an MMA in which I would have been fighting for the “King of the Cage” championship belt. That sucked! Eventually I started training again, working with Eric Wong at first who was my new strength and conditioning coach at the time. Boxing, wrestling and kickboxing followed and soon I was back in the ring battling it out for the Apex welterweight world title.

Winning that bout early in the first round by Knockout I soon got the call the fight Josh Koscheck, 4 weeks later, at UFC Fight Night 7. They mentioned that nobody available in the division wanted to fight him and asked If I would. After realizing that it was indeed the UFC calling and not my buddies trying to punk me, I excitedly said that I’d fight.

In Early 2007, after battling inside the Octagon with Josh for three rounds, I was in the gym preparing for the second UFC bout of my three fight contract. Chris Lytle was to be my opponent and we were excited to face him. I was hoping we could have won the fight of the night bonus check that night at UFC 72 in Sacramento.

The fight never happened.

Another concussion, the seventh one of my athletic career, occurred during a training session in preparation for the Lytle fight. That concussion combined with all of the buzzers, light dimmers and bell ringers that we fighters experience while training and competing, had thrown my world into a chaotic spin.

I couldn’t exercise for the next year.

It was the worst time in my life!

Not one of my concussions had come as a result of a knockout, they were all are just a result of solid hits in the head, an accumulation of a lifetime of training. The UFC gave kept me under contract for nearly a year and a half but I just couldn’t get well enough to train hard let alone fight.

Learning to live life as something different than a pro-fighter while dealing with the depressive symptoms that post concussion syndrome brings was insanely challenging, a tougher task than facing any opponent in a ring or cage. Replacing the extreme high that fighting had given me for so many years presented even more of a challenge. The first few months after the injury were the most depressing and down times that I’ve ever had to experience in my life.

When my brain could handle the chore, I began reading many books in an attempt to fill my desire to learn. The same desire that I believe helped me become the best martial artist I could be. I’d read books about anything that I thought would improve myself as a person, teacher, father, husband or entrepreneur. I quickly realized how much there was so much to learn but was really excited by it all.

It’s been nice to finally have time to hang out with my two kids and wife. Training two or three times a day, as I did for the past 10 years never allowed me to do that. I am now very excited for the future. I see myself building other fighters up so that they can reach the top of the fight game.  I want to write some books, create many instructional DVD’s and open up several martial arts schools so that some of my students can make a living through martial arts.

Will I fight ever fight again? I’m not sure but for now the reward is just not worth the risk.  I do miss getting punched in the face a bit though which may be a little strange. I do feel totally fine now, in fact better than ever before, able to train hard by doing a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling technique and striking practice, working on new things and keeping the old stuff sharp. To keep myself from jumping back into the cage, I try my hardest to remember how bad I felt after my last concussion because who knows how long the symptoms from another one would last. Potentially for a lifetime which is very scary to me. That being said, I miss fighting professionally more than you could imagine.

Hope you’re enjoying the blog. It’s been a lot of fun for me to write, talk MMA and share ideas with all of you. I’ve got lots more to come!

In my next article I’ve got three super funny and embarrassing (for me) concussion related stories to tell you… I’ll post it up soon.

P.S I just transfered the voicemail, of the message the UFC left me on my phone, to a computer file (I kept it saving it on my phone to show my grandkids :) ). Click here to listen

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Categories : Uncategorized

Comments

  1. Marc Bautis says:

    Great article. The dangers of concussions do not get the attention they deserve. This year there has been a little spotlight on them since several prominent NFL players have gotten them. Hopefully it raises awareness around the injury.

    Best of luck in your career.

  2. Kaliqo says:

    I’m glad you posted your story. There isn’t enough being done about concussion syndrome. The NFL and pro wrestling seem to be taking notice. Hopefully the MMA world will too.

  3. Jeff Joslin says:

    I’ve been in contact with the Organization out of Boston that is doing all the brain research on retired football players along with other athletes.

    Hopefully I can help them out in educating mixed martial artists, boxers, wrestlers and other combat athletes about the dangers of concussions.

  4. steve says:

    The Boston group, who’s research won’t be conclusive for thirty years or so, is not going to help athletes protect themselve today. A corrective protocol being used by many MMA , NFL and NHL players today, has been proven in research to help reduce the risk of concussion from blows to the jaw. http://www.mahercor.com

  5. Keith says:

    Great post as usual Jeff. Love the Joe Silva message. Priceless.

  6. motph says:

    Outstanding writing

  7. Lance Clarke says:

    Hey Jeff! Great blog article. Beyond the bright lights of the MMA is the difficult side of training and preparation. The things fighters have to put themselves through to figth in the pros can be seen as crazy by some. It takes a lot of sacrifice. I am glad you are enjoying the time with your family. You are one of the lucky ones who have something to fall back on outside of the ring. All the best and happy new year.

  8. jay says:

    thansk for posting this, i realised that concussions were very bad, casuing nfl players to becoem suicidal and violent in their lives

    emotionally unstable, but i never thought it would casue someone to stop fighting or be unabel to train

    this article will make many peopel think twice

    have a good new years jeff

    i hope your able to everything you want to int he future whether it be training or jsut living life happily

    tchau

  9. Paul H. says:

    Crazy story! Being out for a year and coming back to yet another concussion would have been devastating. Any tips on how to avoid concussions ,ie mouth guards, stronger necks, taking up quilting instead of MMA ,or is it just a matter of avoiding the first one (they always seem to come in multiples)?

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Paul,

      From what I’ve learned mouth guards do nothing to prevent concussion; a strong neck helps prevent concussions but when you are hit by something you don’t see coming (punch, kick, head against the canvas) your neck does not flex in a defensive manner as it would normally.

      I think it’s important to take a sufficient amount of time off of sparring and competing after a good hit to the head. Multiple concussions within a short amount of time can be devastating.

      and yes…quilting is much safer than being an ultimate fighter but you pick up way less women.

  10. Dee says:

    Sorry to hear of your concussion history Jeff, I’ve experienced post concussion syndrome myself and it’s a horrible experience. I’d had a few bangs to head over the years but none until recently that caused any symptoms. Just over a year ago however I sufferred a major concussion, was out cold for a while. For a month afterwards I felt fine, but then the diziness and focusing issues came on. It felt like nothing was in focus, slightly scrambled and foggy all day every day. Any sort of activity would make my head spin too, which was hard to deal with. The weirdest thing was sometimes when I shook my head it felt like my brain was swishing around, that was probably the most concerning thing about it. Doctors were little help, just wanted to keep blood testing me for conditions that had nothing to do with concussions. I just don’t think the medical field understand it themselves, yet.

    I did a lot of reading on conussions myself such as the work by Christopher Nowinski the former WWE wrestler, and various studies that multiplied my fears about what a concussion actually does. I still don’t feel like I’m back to normal, but things have improved and I know that I never want to take a bang to the head again. How fighters get KOd and then come back to fight is beyond me, but I think if they experienced PCS and if they knew what research is discovering about concussions they may not be so assured about being willing to risk it all again.

    I’ve watched MMA for years, it is my favourite sport but I have to admit going through what I went through makes it slightly uncomfortable to watch fighters get put out flat, like Dustin Hazelett on Saturday at UFC 108.

    No sum of money would get me to risk what these fighters risk every day in training, and every fight in the cage or ring.

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Dee,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. I think it’s important for everyone to know what symptoms to watch out for. I definately agree with you that the medical field still has much to discover about concussions and post concussion syndrome.

      I was contacted by Chris Nowinski a while back. It sounds like they are doing some great stuff regarding concussion research and awareness. I hope to help them out, when then need it, in terms of the sport of MMA. As you know, it’s nice to talk to someone who has gone through Post concussion syndrome because if they haven’t there is no way to really describe the nightmare it can be.

      I’m very glad to hear you’re feeling better. All the best to you and your family.

      JJ

  11. Dee says:

    Thanks Jeff. I’m glad to hear you are in communications with Chris, I really respect what guys like him and now yourself, are doing.

    And yes the need for awareness is huge, not only to inform people in sports but to help those who experience PCS. I dealt with it alone and it was a very depressing time, even thinking about it now is quite difficult but I feel in order to reduce things for the future, it is necessary to understand no matter how disturbing the reality is. Where that leaves sports where concussions are likely I do not know, boxing has remained despite the obvious implications of head trauma, I guess football, MMA, pro wrestling etc will do too because there are enough people who are willing to take the risk it seems and enough people willing to pay to watch it. Even myself who would hate nothing more than to have another concussion, pays to go and watch live MMA events and follows it almost religiously. The two concepts don’t seem to work together, but I love the sport too much for it to stop my supporting, I just know I wouldn’t get in there myself unless I was Anderson Silva!

    Good luck with your efforts and all the best to you and your family too.

  12. Tasha says:

    Nice post Jeff, you certainly seem to have a knack for turning adversity into opportunity, and good on ya for bringing such a serious topic to light with grace and humour. I hate to disagree with such an obvious expert, but your comments to Paul were way off. Personally, I think if he joined the quilters guild he’d have his pick of more women than most fighters could dream of….and just think of the money he could save on dates with their senior’s discount!! :)

  13. David says:

    I am late to the party, but after reading this post felt compelled to comment. Remember that it is not only the concussions themselves that cause problems, but continued activity without proper time to heal. During wrestling season, my son was attempting a takedown and hit his head. He got up and told the coach that he was nauseous, seeing double, and dizzy. The coaches response? He made him finish practice, including live wrestling for more than an hour! I have complained to the athletic director and the principal and am asking for the coaches head. The point is, as teachers, coaches, parents, etc. we must be aware of the dangers of concussions and make sure that athletes — especially young ones – are protected.

    Concussions may have robbed you of part of your career. Others have suffered worth fates. We must get the word out to try to limit the damage from these injuries.

    Thanks for listening to my rant.

    Dave

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Thanks for sharing that story Dave. I remember my hockey coaches being the same way when I had my first ones way back in they day.

      From what I’ve seen in wrestling, there is a lot of awareness about concussions at the highest level of competition. Hopefully the knowledge continues to pass down to the high school and elementary school levels.

      Your right on with the importance of rest after a concussion along with the step by step process of returning to play.

      I hope to do as much as I can to spread the word to others about concussions and the dangers involved.

      Thanks for posting.

  14. joe says:

    Jeff,

    Reading your post made me want to share my own concussion story. I was knocked out cold by an older stronger kid back in high school. I still do not remember anything of the fight itself. In fact, I caught the bus home and do not remember doing it. The brain was on some kind of automatic pilot.
    That happened when I was fourteen. I’ve had a couple other minor bell ringers over the years in MA and playing rugby.
    Since you are so up on the latest research, I wanted to ask if you think thatKO incident could have had a long term effect ie, depression, trouble concentrating. And if so, what can we do about it? Also, I’ve been wanting to get into BJJ but I really don’ t want to risk another concussion. Do they happen often in BJJ? And here’s another consideration: Is getting choked out like having a concussion, ie. does it do the brain the same kind of injury with all the same long-term implications?
    Great blog, thanks.
    Best wishes from Toronto.

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Hey Joe,

      Thanks for sharing your story bro. I suggest going to see a specialist who really knows about concussions (Dr. Karen Johnston is still at Toronto Rehab I believe and is highly regarded) if you are still having side effects. From what I learned, time would tell if my symptoms would go away. 3 years after I feel pretty much back to normal.

      For BJJ, it’s important to roll with experienced people more than total beginners as the latter may knee or elbow you in the head accidentally when training. I would tell your instructor the situation and maybe he can keep you on the safest track. Keep something (ie your arm) in between your head and their knees at all times when on the ground. As far as the chokes, just tap out when your caught and you’ll never get choked out. I still have never been choked unconscious in 30 years of training so I’m pretty sure you can avoid that.

      Good luck!

  15. Joe says:

    Thanks for your response and encouragement, Jeff.
    I’ve watched you fight and you are a true warrior with tons of heart and skills to match.
    BTW, all true fight fans know that you won that Fitch fight in ’05 by TKO!

    Best,
    Joe

  16. 1henryw says:

    Ive suffered 3 mild concussions (no loss of conciousness). Ive never experienced any kind of confusion or memory loss from them and always knew where I was and what I was doing. I can still remember with detail the events both before and after all the concussions. However after the 3rd one despite acting normally with normal memery I didnt feel quite myself for an entire week (after that I felt completely fine). I just want to know if it is safe for me to continue with my amatuer boxing career? What do you think?
    thanks for reading :)
    Henry

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Hi Henry,

      I was similar in that I had no lingering symptoms until around my 5th minor one in which like you I felt off for like 2 weeks. The problem for me was that my next one which was a few years later made me feel messed up for 3 months. I was able to go back to full contact and feel fine for quite a while after each of those until my last one which made me feel hungover and unable to train for 1. 5 years. That’s why I stopped fighting because who knows how long the next one would last for me.

      Did you get them all from boxing?

      I would try to book an appointment with someone who specializes in concussions, take in as much knowledge as you can, and make a well informed choice. Good luck bro. Please keep me updated on how things are going.

  17. 1henryw says:

    Hey, thanks for replying :)
    One was from tripping into a wall but the other two were from boxing. Got one after my first fight and my last one was about a month ago from sparring. So frustrating cus I hadnt sparred in 6 months and was sparring really well until the last 30 secs when I took a really hard hook flush. I panicked when the symptoms didnt immediately go away and I did a fair bit off research into concussions since. Its good to come across someone from the fighting world who is happy to talk about their concussion experiences.
    Ive felt fine for about 3 weeks now and Im gonna train for the first time 2moro and see how I feel. Im gonna hold off sparring for quite a bit though.

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      I used to test myself by training (raising my heart rate) with no contact (weight training, bagwork, shadowboxing) and then I would try to read a page from a book. If you’re symptomatic you might be able to read the words but have difficulty grasping what the paragraphs and sentences are about as a whole.

      Here’s a link to something I found online about returning to play – http://www.thinkfirst.ca/downloads/concussion/ReturnToPlay.pdf

      Best to get a doctors advice.

  18. 1henryw says:

    Thanks for link :) I trained yesterday for the first time and I felt good so I think im ok. I am going to make an appointment with my doctor just to be 100% sure though. Thanks alot for the advice really appreciate it :)

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Np man, good luck with your training. If you have any other questions let me know and please keep me updated on how things are going.

  19. 1henryw says:

    Hey just to let u know I havent had any symptoms for weeks now and have began full training again ;) Unfortianetly Ive had to pull out of the tournament I was gonna enter because I no longer have time to shift the weight. Thought you might be intrested to know that I spoke to both my trainers about my concussion and it turns out that they have both suffered from multiple concussions as well. My main trainer had about 81 amatuer bouts and he didnt know he’d even suffered concussions. A couple of years after he retired he had bouts of severe dizzyness and was diagnosed with delayed post concussion syndrome. I didnt know this was possible but apparently post concussion can kick in years after the initial injury. Goes to show just how common concussions in martial arts actually are though. It seems everyone Ive spoken to about my concussion has had one at my gym lol.

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Great to hear you’re doing well, thanks for the update. Good luck with all your training and don’t spar full out too often. Train smart and have a long career bro. Keep those updates coming as I love to hear’em.

      All the best!

  20. It is important to consider Jaw Joint Protection like provided by the Brain Pad Mouth Guard which reduces impact to the TMJ by Jaw Hits and potentially reduces the concussions.
    http://www.brainpads.com
    The use of the Brain Pad has been mandated by several International Organizations.

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Very interesting point. Thanks for the comment.

      Over the years I’ve seen some of the best doctors in the world regarding concussions. At one summit several of them stated that there was no evidence that mouth guards prevent or reduce concussion.

      They obviously felt it was a good idea to wear mouth guards during contact sports for obvious reasons but did not recognize any correlation between wearing them and concussion safety.

  21. Paulo says:

    Wow, reading all these stories are inspiring, didn’t think I was the only one who had this. Mind as well share my story…

    I had a concussion in mid December. got slammed from behind against a locker. hit the back of my head first. got up right away, went to the gym after. felt dizzy, light headed, weird, headache for about a day in a half. Took a couple days off from the gym then Continued lifting heavy 3x a week. No cardio.

    A month later ( mid/end of January )after a workout, i felt the concussion symptoms again. i started feeling light headed, dizzy, nausea, headache, black spots in vision. First 2 weeks were brutal. migraine that was very painful on about an 8 on a 10 scale. No appetite, trouble sleeping for two weeks. Thing that bothers me the most it’s hard for me to sleep at night, and my vision.

    Now I’m starting to feel weak and numbness, going for an MRI tomorrow and hopefully everything turns out fine. This is a very scary experience I just hope it all goes away soon. Lifting was all I had. It’s also my first concussion. I just want this to go away, i dont feel like myself.

  22. FlyingHendo says:

    Thanks for the insightful story, man. I always wondered how far you could have gone in the UFC.

    WAR Jeff!

  23. Jeff Trost says:

    Normally I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite great article.

  24. Vicente Glasscock says:

    concussions can be dangerous that is why you always need to have some x-ray or cat scans to make sure that it does not have some complications.^

    Have a look at our own web site too
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/turmeric-side-effects/

  25. Joseph Paukman says:

    I have been weightlifting for 20 years, in 2012 i started ju jitsu. Two days after i started to research how to protect my knee joints i popped my knee. A few days after i stated researching head injuries i got kneed in the chin(5 stitches). I assume Law of attraction

    My question is does rolling and the head movement associated with ju jitsu techniques cause weakening of the brain.

    my only symptom from being kneed are a perceived every time i do ground work, i feel a brain ache after class (Maybe i had this problem before but did not notice)

    i am under the impression that just practicing ju jitsu drills is making me stupider.

    any advice you can give me?

    • Jeff Joslin says:

      Hi Joseph, I think jiu-jitsu is one of the safest martial arts. Injuries to the head are pretty rare and practicing the many techniques of jiu-jitsu is great for the mind. Good luck in all your training!

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