My Concussion Story…By
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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