How a Concussion Feels Text by julie shamgochian | photo by kate durkin

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.

Meredith Gallagher, left, Brittany Ratté, center, and Matt Pease, right.

From the initial contact to the final days of recovery, living with a concussion can be limiting and uncomfortable. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea and anxiety, while severe cases can cause related injures, trouble with social interactions and even depression.

Matt Pease, a former UMass soccer player who has suffered seven concussions is still frequently pained by the onset of random concussions.

“I’ll just be trying to read something or talk about something and I’ll just be spaced out,” Pease said. “And just kind of foggy-brained symptoms like that.”

His social life has also been affected by his numerous concussions.

“Sometimes it’s hard to make conversation, I mumble a lot, as you can probably tell. I just feel like I space out a lot … it goes up and down,” Pease said. “There are times where I feel really good and there are times where I’m just like second guessing myself on certain things.”

John Power, whose son has participated in Northampton youth sports, has witnessed how concussions in other young athletes create stress for families.

“Now that the child has to be at home, whatever the child’s schedule was is now changed so that they’re not doing screen time, they’re not watching TV, they’re not playing outside with friends and they’re not doing sports,” said Power.

“They just have to be in a darkened room with no stimulation,” Power said. “That can be pretty challenging.”

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.”

Brain illustration by Moussou N'Diaye, who also contributed reporting to this story. Additional reporting was contributed by Cassidy Kotyla, Colby SearsMichael Schiller, Linnea Thomas and Marla Friedson.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.