TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

NFL Quarterback With Concussion Stays In Game



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


newsboy-thThe National Football League (NFL) governs most of professional American football, and it is proud of its “concussion protocol” to protect its players. That system shamefully failed Sunday with 1:04 left in a 13-13 game between the St. Louis Rams and the Baltimore Ravens.

St. Louis quarterback, Case Keenum, had taken his team close to Baltimore territory and was trying to drive for a score. Then Keenum was

Case Keenum 1

Case Keenum Quarterback St. Louis Rams

sacked (tackled for a loss). His head hit the turf hard. Keenum couldn’t get up without assistance, and even when he did, he seemed to be staggering. He showed at least three of the signs of a possible concussion, as defined by the concussion protocol of the NFL. (A concussion was confirmed after the game. It wasn’t a surprise. Fans at the stadium and watching on TV could see Keenum was in trouble.)

Case Keenum 2

Keenum holding head after tackle

The NFL this year empowered the neurotrauma consultants, who are in the broadcast booths for all games, to stop games if necessary. Yet the St. Louis-Baltimore game continued, and Case Keenum remained in it. He fumbled after two plays. Baltimore recovered, which set up a field goal to win the game.

Case Keenum 3

Keenum struggling to return to game

This case seems to show more concern with winning than with Keenum’s health and safety. Both the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) are investigating. It’s not clear if anyone – the coach, the trainer,

Concussed Brain

Concussed Brain

or the neurotrauma consultant – was at fault. But whatever happened, the system totally failed. (Full story with video)


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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Sarah Robinson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Sarah Robinson (survivor)

Robinson, Sarah Survivor

Sarah Robinson – I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when I was a teenager. It drastically changed my personality as well as my life. I experienced rejection from people in my family because of my condition, and it is devastating. I have an important message for people who have a survivor in their family. Please never give up on him or her. My mother selflessly gave me so much of her time in order to help me recover. Her belief in me saw me through my traumatic experience and into adulthood, where I recovered dramatically. I have a brain injury, but it is my little secret. People don’t know if I don’t want them to. I want to share my story because I am proud of how far I have come, and I also want to inspire others.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Will Smith’s Movie, Concussion, Based on True Story 



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain th-2Concussion is scheduled to be in theaters in late December, but it is already making headlines (review and trailer). The National Football League (NFL) knows that its Achilles heel is the high risk of brain injury to its players, not only from documented concussions, which are likely to be far fewer in number than actual concussions, but also from the repeated sub-concussive hits, which many neurologists believe contribute to brain injury. Former players are concerned (video of the song Final Drive by former NFL star Kyle Turley), and current players are becoming concerned. Recently a promising rookie linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers quit after one season over the fear of brain injury.



Concussion is based on the true story of the discovery of the brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian pathologist who did the autopsy of Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster. Dr. Omalu first saw CTE during his study of Webster’s brain. Webster was homeless, depressed, and suffering from dementia when he died at age 50. Dr. Omalu’s story, which is the basis of Concussion, is given in the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. I urge everyone to watch the documentary before seeing Concussion. The 2-hour PBS documentary is available online at no cost. In Concussion, Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu.

Omalu & Smith

Dr. Bennet Omalu & Will Smith

This movie may change what you think about American football and the NFL. Knowing that brain disease is a major problem for the future of the game, the NFL tried to discredit Dr. Omalu and his provocative work. The NFL had previously established a questionable committee of doctors to study mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs), otherwise known as concussions. The NFL committee published papers claiming that MTBIs, even multiple MTBIs, were not a problem for players. (The conclusions are contradicted by current data. Also, some scientists question the validity of the published studies.)

NFL LogoDr. Omalu thought that the NFL would be very interested in his data. Instead, the NFL’s MTBI committee immediately attacked Dr. Omalu and his findings. At one point, the committee tried to get Dr. Omalu to retract the paper. Going against the multibillion dollar NFL has a steep price. Dr. Omalu has stated that he wishes he had never discovered CTE.

To date, CTE has been found in 88 of 92 autopsied NFL brains (1, 2). The currently accepted way that CTE is identified is by studying the brain postmortem. The major criticism of the postmortem analyses that were done is that the brains came from former players who already showed signs of brain disease. In other words, the claim is that the sample is biased. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University’s CTE Center, studied most of the brains. She argues that the results would be extraordinary even in a biased sample.


Dr. Ann McKee – neurolpathologist at Boston University

With a recent advance in technology, it seems that the bias criticism can soon be put to rest. Dr. Omalu is an author on a recent publication, in which neuroscientists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and from the University of Chicago showed that CTE can be accurately diagnosed in a living person by a special PET (positron emission tomography) scan. If such scans were taken of all the current players, we would know if CTE is rare among players, as the NFL would like players and fans to believe, or if it’s relatively common, as Dr. Ann McKee believes.

Until that happens, we are left to decide about the risk of brain disease in players of American football on the basis of what we know. Concussion tells the little-known story of Dr. Omalu and the discovery of CTE. With this movie, we will be more informed and better able to evaluate the risk.


Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alisa Ann Noah



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Noah, Alisa Ann L7l38moCWms-awgtIo9_70iApASPda_FVoPydfH1Eav5cCUnvpSudWfhdApNDrmPOqCkIcYbJLDfkrIxawI0Iu_D3IeGgzKZ1Whh7Lc2pmxdyJbB19_Vw114VdME3ant9vsNlq-qX9SNXn7SApjHhzoVZqU1ToqtwiFTpWcqKJ9lbUSBAV0pVh-fvnXN3tkGrsqt1hPzAODSjNBFrDOOjJ-u_iGQ547W

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Alisa aka “El Dorado”

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

North Carolina, USA

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

February 2012

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury came from a motor vehicle accident. I wasn’t at fault. My truck was rear-ended at 50+ mph. Because my truck had no headrests, my head hit the back glass.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?


6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I was first treated in the Emergency Room. Scans and X-rays were taken. Later I had a neck brace, cervical epidurals, other cervical injections, and physical therapy.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?


8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)?

I did physical therapy.

How long were you in rehab?

Three months of 3 days a week

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have vision loss; migraines; balance issues; sleep problems; mood problems; memory loss; anxiety; and pain, pain, pain. Unexpected loud noises send me into a panic.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life got worse for about three years. I have recently started to make progress with happiness and finding new ways to keep busy.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss my career as a horse trainer, and I miss college.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Retirement (LOL)

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike the pain and my physical limitations.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Friends and new hobbies have helped me accept my brain injury.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. People don’t understand my thought process or mood swings.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes. I fear driving. I don’t engage in social activities much anymore.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My mother and my roommate are my main caregivers.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

Hmmm, I’m not sure. I take things one day at a time. :)

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

Don’t let doctors just throw pills at you. After I had been told for almost three years that my condition is permanent, I recently learned that I can heal from it. Do your research. Some doctors are really no help.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

NEVER let your “disabilities” define who you are as a person! You are and always will be just as valuable and important as anyone else. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Stay strong!

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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U.S. Soccer Bans Heading for Players Age 10 and Under



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

newsboy-thConcussions from playing soccer rank second to football in boys’ sports, but they are first in girls’ sports and second among all sports. Of the more than 3 million youths playing soccer in the U.S., 50,000 concussions were reported among high-school soccer players in 2010, more than the number from wrestling, basketball, baseball, and softball combined.  Parents and players brought a lawsuit accusing U.S. Soccer and other U.S. youth soccer organizations of negligence. As a result, U.S. Soccer established new rules that prevent heading by players age 10 and under and prohibits heading by 11- to 13-year-olds in practice. There are also new guidelines for soccer-trophy-clipart-soccer-team-clipartsoccer-team-with-trophy-clip-art-soccer-team-with-trophy-image-efwxwwe3substitution. For example, a player who replaces another player who has to leave the game because of a suspected concussion does not count as a substation.

U.S. Soccer governs only a fraction of youth soccer teams in the U.S., so they are recommending strongly that other leagues follow suit.  Dr. Cantu, a neurologist and a concussion specialist at Boston University, said that children’s brains are crucially developing and that the ages of 10 to 14 are especially critical in brain development. He also maintains that children’s neck muscles are not strong enough to support the head, making the risk of injury even greater. Safer Soccer, an organization that seeks a ban on 131181714310586452912266140-vector-illustration-for-a-anatomy-brain-in-separate-color-mdheading for players 14 and under, applauds the new rules. (The advisory board of Safer Soccer includes Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, and Joy Fawcett – former players of the women’s U.S. national soccer team, which has won four Olympic gold medals since 1996.) (Full story with video)

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

volunteerLessia Ferrell Malloy (survivor)I’m now an official volunteer for our district schools. I was fingerprinted, and background checks were done. I got my badge. It’s a foot in the door for being a substitute teacher.delivery-van-clip-art-136684

Janiece Naber Martindale (caregiver)I’m now an official truck driver again doing local deliveries.

Angela Perilli (survivor)…I’m not sure if this is an accomplishment, but I did go to therapy to work on it. gg58995503When I came out of my coma, my right eye was turned out to the right. I had “TBI eye.” My TBI/accident/coma happened in June of 2014. My eyes returned to normal on October 7, 2014. It was a huuuuuge relief! My vision is still not the way it was before my accident. Besides fighting to be alive and learning how to walk again, that’s my success.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

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Warning: Graphic Content


David A. Grant

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI found myself doing something that I don’t usually do. This morning, I just stared at my keyboard and waited. Most of the time, putting virtual pen to paper is easy. On a good day, I can pour out a thousand words in under an hour.

Not today.

One of the most unexpected by-products of this new life is my PTSD (post traumatic-stress disorder). Since time out of mind, I’ve heard the term PTSD. But like so many, perhaps even you, I mistakenly associated it exclusively with veterans, with those that had seen the unimaginable.

Never did I expect to be walking daily with this newfound friend. Some things you just can’t see coming – like a speeding car driven by a sixteen-year-old driver. Its onset was abrupt. It was unrelenting. It was unexpected.

And it’s more than a bit insidious.

Early on, as my physical injuries began to heal, like a dark flower blooming under a full moon, my PTSD began to blossom. Professional help did little to stem the terror tide.

The nightmares remain the worst part. For a couple of years after my accident, “bad PTSD nights” came anywhere from ten to twenty nights a

month. When I say “bad,” I mean bad. These aren’t your “Boogeyman-under-the-bed” kind of dreams.

Grant, David and Sarah 111715

David & Sarah Grant

Not even close.

Over the years, I have had most every sort of Stephen King horror inflicted upon me after dark. From being burned alive to drowning after drowning, from severed limbs to vivid dream pain that feels more real than reality, it’s been a real shit storm. My apologies if profanity offends, but better a four-letter word than a vivid description of life after dark.

The sound of an ambulance passing by our home drove me to tears for the better part of a couple of years – stopping me dead in my tracks if happenstance found me working in our yard.

Crowds? No more. Action-packed movies? Maybe for you, but not for us. Sudden or abrupt noises? You’ll find my shoes on the floor and me long gone.

Time does have a way of offering clarity. Today I know that I live with a textbook case of PTSD. Like other challenges I face, it’s invisible. Meeting me today for the first time, you’d never know. “Hey, I see that you live with PTSD,” said no one – ever.

As time passed, Sarah and I developed compensatory strategies to help. It is good for us both.

Known by few is a condition called “Secondary PTSD.” Those close to a trauma survivor, though not physically hurt, carry their own deep and painful scars. Sarah has a pretty classic case of secondary PTSD.

Circumstance, rather than virtue of any kind, has reshaped our lives. Our


the Grant’s Sanctuary

lives together today are smaller, but none less rewarding. We shun most crowds, but do not live reclusively. We spend a lot of time outdoors – crowded music festivals replaced by nature walks. Our yard has been transformed into a sanctuary with waterfalls, birdfeeders and flowers abounding. It’s now a sacred place for us – a place where we both continue to heal.

Life today is more enriching than before. I still startle easily. I cry less often at the sounds of a siren wailing. And we are both cautious about what we allow ourselves to be exposed to.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

The events that have unfolded in Paris over the last few days are heartbreaking. It’s at times like these that the rubber meets the PTSD road. I need to be careful of getting sucked in to wanting to know too much detail, balancing it with the very human need to know what is happening in the world at large. I watch “just enough” TV to know what’s happening. I read “just enough” of the news online – very often going no further than the headlines.

Just this morning, as I read the USA Today news on my tablet, a content block caught my eye: WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. Suffice to say, I passed that one right by, knowing that honoring my condition is good for me and good for those around me. I am praying for those who are part of the horror. Blasts mean that there are now new members of the TBI club. Hundreds, if not thousands – perhaps an entire nation – will now live with PTSD. My heart weeps for them.

But even with the most dutiful of diligence, I am reminded that I am forever bound to PTSD.

Last Thursday night was our weekly Date Night. Our cinematic choice this past week was the Peanuts Movie. We’ve seen just about every animated flick released in the last few years. It was a smile-filled night out. Just dinner and a movie. Just us two. Hand-holding and quiet whispers – just the way we like it.

At 10:00 PM, I leaned over, gave Sarah her good night kiss and fell quickly asleep. Though I no longer dread bedtime, I live in the reality that any night can be a bad night.

Grant, David and Sarah 2 111715

David & Sarah Grant

At 11:30 PM, Sarah woke me up as I lay next to her crying out in pain, my feet sinking into molten dream lava, being burned off my torso as I looked down in abject horror. I could smell my own flesh burning. Unable to move, I screamed in mortal terror.

“C’mon David, wake up. Wake up, David,” she called out – again coaxing me back to the relative safety of awakeness. We’ve danced this midnight two-step hundreds of times.

And so the rhythm of our new life goes – enjoying those sacred moments between the tougher times, and hunkering down to ride out the occasional PTSD storms.

In the bigger scheme of things, fate could have been much more harsh. I could have died that day – leaving Sarah to walk through the recent five-year anniversary of the day alone, her memory of me beginning to fade.

But we have each other. And in having each other, we have all we need.


About David A. Grant

David A. Grant 2 101115

David A. Grant

David A. Grant is a freelance writer, keynote speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of “Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury,” a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His newest title, “Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury,” was released in 2015.

David is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.” As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog.

David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter.

David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 15,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community as well as the publisher of “TBI Hope and Inspiration Magazine.”

Thank you, David A. Grant.

Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David A. Grant)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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