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Champion figure skater bringing awareness to concussion dangers

Much has been written about concussions in high-contact sports like football, soccer and hockey. However, one champion ice skater is sharing her long and continuing odyssey of dealing with multiple concussions to educate people about the dangers faced by ice skaters.

They often take multiple falls and blows to the head on ice. Because of the style of the sport, however, they don't have the protection of helmets that other athletes do.

Ashley Wagner became a three-time U.S. champion figure skater, but barely missed fulfilling her dream of going to the Olympics. For years, she carried a secret that made her life more and more challenging.

Wagner says that after hitting her head on the ice numerous times as a young teen more than a decade ago, she began to suffer severe headaches and difficulty understanding what people were saying. Her skating started suffering. She says, "I would get totally overwhelmed and lost on the ice." So did her school work. "To go from AP math classes to struggling to get through basic grade 12 math is something that is very humbling and disconcerting," she notes.

Wagner says she suffered in "silent terror," not knowing what was happening to her, at a time when far less was known about the impact of head injuries on cognitive function, its role in degenerative brain disease and post-concussion syndrome that can occur after repeated blows to the head.

Wagner says she knows that she suffered at least six concussions over the years. However, she never saw a doctor. Coming from a military family, she says, "you kind of walk it off."

She has since gotten neurological treatment and challenges her mind with a number of exercises that she's created for herself. She also advocates for more awareness of the dangers of head injuries for figure skaters and "the impact that concussions can have on your life if you leave them untreated and don't actively do anything to improve yourself."

Source: The Mercury News, "Ice skating and concussions: Ashley Wagner lived in ‘silent terror’ after head injury," Elliott Almond, accessed March 16, 2017

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