Imagine sitting by yourself in a dark, quiet room with no ability to concentrate on everyday tasks. No reading, no homework, no social media and no speaking with friends. Your symptoms could last anywhere from a week to a few months.
Whether because of a collision on the soccer field or a freak accident with a bathroom door, many University of Massachusetts Amherst students and community members have experienced this solitude after being diagnosed with a concussion. In the video below, Lucy Martirosyan describes getting hit in the head by a heavy swinging door and then feeling her "consciousness getting fuzzy."
Concussions during athletic competitions can be just as jarring.
"I don't remember actually getting hit," said UMass Women's Ice Hockey player Meredith Gallagher, describing one of her two in-game concussions. "I just remember being on all fours and everything was starry-eyed. I could hear everyone yelling, but couldn't see." After being checked out, she missed the rest of the game.
"They only way I know anything about the hit it by watching it on film. The flight home was very bad, because of the noise," said Gallagher.
For 21-year-old English major and UMass cheerleader Brittany Ratté, getting a concussion while cheering during a game was a similar ordeal. “I came off the floor vomiting and I couldn’t see any bright lights or anything like that for almost three weeks," she said. "After that, it was just slow headaches that eventually went away but … I had to be really careful because it was such a severe concussion."
"I apparently finished the routine. I don't remember it," Ratté said.
These are not the only challenges, however. According to Janna Mantua, a graduate student at UMass Amherst who studies both behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.
“When you have a concussion, your sleep actually changes,” Mantua said. “Your sleep stages don’t quite look the same, there’s not the same proportion of them, you have more awakenings, you have weird total sleep time, so you either sleep way too much because your brain is healing or you don’t sleep enough."
Mantua’s focuses on the undergraduate population and studies people who have had a concussion over a year ago.
To look into the long-term effects of a concussion, she conducted a sleep study to find out how sleep helps form memories. Mantua concluded that sleep does improve memory for those who have not had a concussion.
“This is only true for memories that are emotional,” Mantua said.
“There’s a lot to learn,” said Mantua. “It’s a pretty cool field because it’s kind of messy so I think people sort of stayed away from it for awhile, but I think everyone is sort of accepting the messiness of it and digging in and saying this is our future, this is our generations of kids, and we need to figure it out.”