Last June, I had the pleasure of speaking at a press conference at Lincoln Financial Field in support of Pennsylvania State Representative Tim Briggs’ proposed concussion management legislation. I was an eighteen-year old who had been researching concussions in sports for nearly ten months at that point—a task that I engaged in to further educate myself and others on the subject at hand; a project that would essentially close many doors in my past that had been left open for too long. But as I situated myself beside the podium at this press conference, I had no idea what kind of story the young woman sitting to my left had to say. Of course, throughout my research, I understood that others have been through worse—much worse—than what I had experienced, but never did I think I would meet someone I could relate to. It was even more than just relating to, for this individual shared a heartbreaking story to the public. She was at the press conference for the same reason as myself, and that was to promote the need for concussion legislation in our state, but she did more than that. Her words were more than the cover to a bill. Her words were the voice of the sports concussion crisis.
Today, Tracy Yatsko, a twenty-three-year old woman from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, is still fighting the repercussions of an injury that ended her high school athletic career. Six years removed from the moment of her last concussion, Yatsko represents the qualities of strength and motivation, for her battle has not been one that has been easy. Sure, I have heard of stories in which athletes have sustained decisively fatal blows to the head. But when I talk to this woman, and when I think about her story, the only words that I can describe how I have perceived her story is hell on earth. Why did this situation in which Yatsko found herself within come to be?
2005 was a year, with regards to concussion awareness, that was still present in the sports’ ‘Era of Good Feelings.’ There was not much to worry about, and though there were stories creeping out of the media regarding concussions in football, there was not much of a worry in other athletic activities. There really wasn’t much consideration as to what a concussion was. It was merely an injury that was ignorantly summarized as a headache; a distraction; a joke. And with such stigma comes tides of the familiar phrase that claims pain to be weakness leaving the body. Only did we, or rather, do we, come to open our eyes to what a concussion is until the moment of a tragedy personally affects ourselves or those who we consider to be close to us. Continue reading