Outreach: BMX Athlete – Jay Fraga, His Story, His Words

20 Nov

We are beginning a new program here at TCB.  This one is called “Outreach”; the purpose is to publicize the good (we hope the vast majority) and sometimes the not so good of concussion management and experiences across this vast planet.  One thing I realized real quick in Zürich is that the stories of the bad are relatively the same, usually highlighted in the media.  Meanwhile the stories of good are different and helpful and not heard at all.  I am asking our readers to send in stories of your cases (please be mindful identifying specifics) so we can share.  There are vast stories in the comment section but I would like to bring forward as many as possible.

The stipulations are simple: 500-2000 words with specific situations that we all can learn from and benefit from, email them to us at theconcussionblog@comcast.net and consent to possible editing as I see fit.  It would be nice if you included a bio or frame of reference, but if you would like to remain anonymous that is fine to (however, it would be good if you included something like “licensed doctor in _____ (state)” or coach, athletic trainer, mom, dad, etc.

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By Jay Fraga, Former BMX Athlete, Husband, Father, Sports Lover

If you’ve ever had a bad hangover, I think we can all agree that it’s a relief when the day is over, you sleep, and it’s gone when you wake up the next day.

I have had a hangover for as long as I can remember. It’s been there for more than a year and a half. If you can recall the misery and suffering involved in one day with a hangover, maybe you can begin to imagine what it’s like to try to live day-to-day feeling like that.

Then again, maybe you can’t.

My last concussion was approximately 8 months after a previous one that I got crashing in a bike race.  I wasn’t especially symptomatic from the previous one, but all of my doctors virtually agree that I hadn’t yet healed when I was injured again this last time. The scientific community has a number of guidelines for concussion, but the one thing everyone can agree on is that layering a second concussion on top of a previously unhealed concussion is very, very dangerous.

In spite of our knowledge about how dangerous multiple concussions are, we see NFL players being cleared to go out onto the gridiron a week or two after sustaining not one, but two concussions in a three-week span of time, while proclaiming that they feel great, and their coach stands by, nodding approvingly.  Fantastic.

For those of us who struggle to live daily with Post Concussion Syndrome, seeing these stories play out in the news is especially painful.  There is nothing more painful than regret, and many of us watch helplessly as we watch players and coaches, who are in absolute denial, speak nonchalantly and hollowly about a subject that we are intimately acquainted with. We watch knowing full well that there’s a pretty good chance that these players will soon be joining our ranks, where the challenge isn’t a championship at the end of the season, but rather to live like a normal human being and be able to enjoy life. And it feels like there’s nothing that we can do about it.

If we want to change things in sports, we have to understand how athletes operate.  Athletes are wired a little bit differently.  Those who have learned how to overcome –  through the process of competition, loss, reflection, coaching, training, more competition, rising above, winning, and then ultimately understanding how to win, have a different belief set.  They think of themselves as machines that are able to prevail through anything.  Competition becomes a necessary part of their diet, and  the prospect of taking it away provokes more emotions than I have space here to write about.  I can speak to all of this, because this is me.  This is how I operate.  This is how I landed myself in this predicament. I also believe that this plays the primary role in the denial about concussion safety that pervades sports today among players and coaches. The players, we can understand.  And really, we can understand the coaches: they were once players.

The bottom line is that we are trying to reach through to the strongest personalities on the face of the earth. As a result, this is going to be an uphill battle of unparalleled magnitude. I hope that you can take some time to watch the video of my speech (above) that I gave at a youth concussion conference at the request of my doctors here in Massachusetts. I spoke to a number of school nurses, coaches, athletic trainers, parents, and medical professionals.  As I spoke, I made mental notes while watching the faces of some of the football coaches – gigantic guys who took up a chair and a half in the audience.  As I spoke about symptoms that I’ve had, I watched as their faces registered recognition with some of them. Then I watched as those expressions changed to stony ones. Maybe they’d felt some of those things before and just didn’t know how to identify them? 

After the presentation, a number of people came up to me and mentioned how scary the symptoms seemed.  I agreed. They are scary. The scarier thing is that I only scratched the surface about my experiences and symptoms in my speech. 

My experiences aren’t particularly unique. This is something that can happen to you or one of your players if you shrug off concussion safety. The information is out there and we need to use it.

You can reach Jay through email at jfraga@aggrobikes.com

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Dustin’s Comments:

This is exactly why I have created The Concussion Blog; to educate, using any means necessary.  The words Jay has written are very true, but listening to him in the video hits home, very hard.  Why, you ask?  Simple I am among the ranks of people who have had concussions (11 in my case) and continue to deal with symptoms (very random for me).  When Jay was speaking I felt a sense relief; someone other than I can verbalize what we are feeling and dealing with.  In my brief conversations with Jay, he and I are very like-minded in terms of the global view on concussions.  Neither of us want to have sports go away, they are necessary, rather we need to have a better grasp on the management of the injury.  Please take the time to read and watch Jay.

I am thankful Jay found me through Twitter and the internet, his story is not unique.

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6 Responses to “Outreach: BMX Athlete – Jay Fraga, His Story, His Words”

  1. Tina November 20, 2012 at 13:06 #

    Excellent article. I tried to watch the video with every volume on as loud as possible, and, I still couldn’t hear it. Thanks for posting, though.

  2. Jay Fraga November 21, 2012 at 18:28 #

    Dustin, thanks for everything. Really appreciate the opportunity to speak through you!

    Tina, sorry about the sound in the video. It can be tough on some computers. Maybe try headphones on a home computer?

  3. craig November 22, 2012 at 00:40 #

    Excellent presentation thank you for sharing. Stay well.

  4. Francois Beauvais November 25, 2012 at 08:53 #

    Hi Jay,

    Thanks for the inspiration. I am right not at my fourth concussion known. I’m sitting home, not doing anything, completely depressed…but for the first time of my life got the diagnosis of post concussion syndrome. I’m 47 and a little scared of what’s next but confident that in time, things will be better. People need to be aware and your presentation hits the spot. Good luck and stay away from 3 year old, they’re dangerous!

    • Jay Fraga November 25, 2012 at 22:17 #

      Francois, keep the faith. What you’re going through is par for the course. In terms of your treatment, you MUST be involved heavily in it. If you feel that your doctors aren’t giving you good answers, see new ones for second opinions. My docs have been great, but it’s still been a tough road. With lousy doctors, I don’t know where I’d be. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions- I’m happy to help with what I know.

  5. Jay Fraga November 25, 2012 at 22:17 #

    Francois, keep the faith. What you’re going through is par for the course. In terms of your treatment, you MUST be involved heavily in it. If you feel that your doctors aren’t giving you good answers, see new ones for second opinions. My docs have been great, but it’s still been a tough road. With lousy doctors, I don’t know where I’d be. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions- I’m happy to help with what I know.

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