When Retired Soccer Star Briana Scurry Knew Her Career Was Over

After several weeks of not playing because of a concussion and then failing  several baseline tests, Briana Scurry became very worried.

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[Briana Scurry] The Washington Freedom had a good protocol for players that got concussions. We all had a baseline test done—the IMPACT test— so we knew where we were at. The next day, when I went in to see the doctor, they also had me do the IMPACT test again, just to see where I was. Completely bombed it. Like—20% or something—30%—so definitely a problem. I was having trouble with sensitivity to light, I was having trouble with sound, I was off-balance, I was having memory issues, and I had this sharp, shooting pain—headache—on the left side of my head. And then, of course, where I got hit on the right— I didn't really think much of the symptoms, and I figured—okay—I'm not well today. It was the day after, so I'm like—okay, I'm still a little bit of a mess—no problem. They said go—go home—couple days, come back, we'll check on you. We'll test you again, and see how it goes. Couple days go by—I'm lying on the couch. Watching TV gives me a bigger headache. As the day goes on, the headache is intense, and I start to notice that it's not the right—it's the left. It's always shooting from behind my left ear, up into my head. And I'm like, this—this really hurts. I mean, it basically knocked me out for the rest of the day. I'd have to take naps in the middle of the day— turn all the lights off, turn everything off— just close my eyes and literally shut down because I was having so much pain. So a few days go by and I go back to the doctor's office to take the IMPACT test again. So I took the second IMPACT test— bombed it as well. So that was the first time I ever bombed two IMPACT tests in a row before. So they were a little bit concerned about that, but it only had been a few days. Maybe—maybe I should get an X-ray or a scan or something— see a neurologist—give it a couple more days. So at that point they put me on the 14-day injury reserve list. They had to make this declaration to the league if a player's going to be out for a certain amount of time. So they put me on that because they didn't want me to rush back. But they knew it would take a little bit longer than we'd expected. Telling me to go home, rest, don't drive, just—chill out. So I go home and I chill—and I'm having these issues still. The sensitivity, balance, memory issues— I have a really hard time concentrating. And it wasn't for a few days that I realized about the concentration thing— because I was fidgety, I was anxious—and I'm never anxious, either. So I was like—what is that about—and I'm like—don't worry about it, I'll be fine. A few more days go by, maybe it's a week now, right? Go back, take the IMPACT test again. Bomb it a third time. So now we're a little worried because there's not that much improvement, if any— and it's my third test. They have me just relax—be calm— and then they start to think about—maybe I should go see a neurologist or something to figure out what else is going on here. So I go see a neurologist, talk to him— they do a scan—they don't necessarily see anything in the scan, but I'm clearly having issues still. Couple days go by—take the IMPACT test again. I bombed four IMPACT tests in a row—that's when I knew there was a problem— because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out where the dot was or what the letter was or where the X is and all that kind of thing—which I had a pretty high score at normally. It wasn't until I bombed 4 IMPACT tests— I guess they only give you 4 versions of it— and the fifth time, I knew— I recognized it from the first time. And the only reason I was able to pass it is because I remembered some of it from the first time. But I still had all these other issues. So I passed the IMPACT test, I think, maybe after 2 weeks— but not because I was better—but because it was the same test as before. But I was still really struggling, and I was starting to get worried. And it had been 2 weeks, and then they put me on the 30 day— because it had been too long—and then the 60 day. And at that point I knew my career was over, because I just wasn't getting much better at all.
Posted on BrainLine January 22, 2014.

Produced by Christian Lindstrom, Justin Rhodes, and Victoria Tilney McDonough, BrainLine.

About the author: Briana Scurry

Briana Scurry is widely thought of as one of the world’s best female soccer goalkeepers. After being named starting goalkeeper for the United States women’s national soccer team in 1994, she helped lead the team in two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2004), a World Cup  championship (1999), and she had 173 international appearances — a record among female soccer players.

Briana Scurry