FARIBAULT, Minn. -- From pro athletes to young athletes taking a timeout, concussions can be a serious health concern. For the first time, one Minnesota family is opening up about their daughter's journey, and share what they wish they had done differently.
Meredith Umbreit is a multi-sport athlete. Her main focus is soccer and basketball. However, a concussion during a basketball game sidelined her last year. It was her third in two years, and second in six months.
"I went for it and she tripped and her elbow came down and whacked me right above my eye, and that one I knew was probably something bad," Meredith said.
The hit happened near the end of the game.
"I remember going back into the gym and the lights were just way bright, super bright, and all the people in there and the music," Meredith said.
Doctors had her take a break from school to rest after the head injury. Symptoms like headaches and dizziness persisted.
"I had a lot of vision problems, it was hard to track things. I had balance problems for a little bit," Meredith said.
Meredith says it was scary. Doctors diagnosed her with post-concussion syndrome.
"The second one was the one that ... I feel like that one was the worst one," mother Jennie Umbreit said.
The second happened during a header in soccer. She continued to play, heading the ball again, exacerbating the symptoms. Meredith was checked out at an urgent care and cleared to play.
"We didn't know better and we let her go back into sports I think too soon. And then the third one happened and it was just all cumulative, that kind of just built on top of each other," Jennie said.
Meredith says she still doesn't feel like herself
"I don't feel as like social and I don't feel as vibrant as I used to be," Meredith said.
Her parents worry about the damage done, and if it will be long lasting.
"It almost seems like she gets more overwhelmed with things. School, sports, just activities in general," Jennie said.
"She's not as happy-go-lucky as she used to be. Sometimes things bother her that didn't bother her before," father Mark Umbreit said.
And they say there's a lot of guilt.
Meredith is now working on getting back to feeling like herself. She goes through physical therapy, and has started acupuncture. She hopes this will help others understand every concussion journey is unique.
"Don't judge someone just by looking at them. You don't know what really is going on with how hard it is to live your everyday life," Meredith said.
And she says there's a lesson for all athletes, advisors and caregivers.
"To stop and think, 'Is a high school sport or any sport that you're playing worth a brain injury for the rest of your life?'" Meredith said.
Meredith hoped she'd be cleared to play this current basketball season. She says the fear of getting hit in the head again stops her. And doctors told her she'll need to be symptom-free for six months before they can begin talking about a return to play. She's participating as the team manager.
Former Gov. Mark Dayton signed Minnesota's Concussion Law in 2011. It requires coaches to sit athletes in youth sports who show signs of a concussion. The law tightens return-to-play standards. It also provides training for coaches and offers access to information for parents.
It's a good idea to check with the school athletic director about your district's specific return-to-play policy.
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