Curious about my concussion
When I was a kid, I rode my bike all the time. The riding was for pure pleasure, not usually related to the need for a quick commute. I occasionally rode my bike to my elementary school (which was in the neighborhood), but the vast majority of my rides were with friends, cruising around the neighborhood, feeling the wind in our hair, trying to see who could zoom down the hills the fastest. We never wore helmets (ah, the 80s)—seeing kids on bikes these days, all of them adorned with helmets, it’s hard to believe we didn’t have them.
I’m sure I fell off my bike a lot. Skinned knees and elbows weren’t a huge deal back then. Once my neighbor M. came over to show off her brand-new bike, the first one I’d ever seen with hand brakes instead of foot brakes. M. was so proud of her bike and let us take turns on it. I got up some serious speed and decided to slow down, squeezing the hand brake about twenty times harder than necessary. I flew off the bike, careening over the handlebars and landing on the asphalt, elbows scraping and my buck teeth hitting the street. My front tooth was chipped, and the next day my entire third grade class couldn’t stop looking at my half-tooth. I felt like a celebrity. A black-and-blue celebrity, but celebrity all the same.
My most severe bike accident was when I was twelve years old. My sister and I went on a ride with our next-door neighbor J. In those days, many Saturdays were spent in search of a really good garage sale. On the way back home, my sister and J. were well ahead of me (they were always much faster—J. even had a speedometer on his bike, which I was obsessed with). They crossed a street with ease, but as I approached it I realized too late that a car was coming. I took a sharp right turn to avoid getting in traffic’s way and ended up turning too sharply, my front wheel in the gutter. I fell and hit my head (I guess on the curb). The rest of the memory is hazy. I remember getting up, my friend L.’s house about 100 yards away from me across the street. I vaguely recall whispering her name, calling for help. I somehow couldn’t muster the strength to yell for her. I’m not sure what happened next or how long it took me to get home, but I eventually got up and either rode or walked my bike back home. My sister had been wondering where I’d gone, and my parents were concerned. (Later they told me I was disoriented when I arrived home but that, when questioned, I claimed nothing was wrong.) My parents asked my sister to sit with me, and I basked in her attention—she was 16 at the time, and I was 12, and moments when she actually sat with me willingly were few and far between. My sister read me a book as she played with my hair—unbeknownst to me, my parents had asked her to feel around my head to figure out if there was a bump to indicate I had fallen. Lo and behold, she found the bump and my parents drove me to the hospital right away.
At the ER, I was diagnosed with a mild concussion and a minor foot injury. I wore one of those flat shoes to immobilize my foot but don’t remember any significant pain or discomfort in my head.
Years later, I started learning more about migraine disease and its relation to concussion, and I got to wondering if that concussion in 1992, however mild, helped kick-start the migraines that were to become regular players in my life by the following year. (It’s possible I had migraines before I was 13, but I don’t remember them as vividly as I remember my “really bad headaches” when I was 13 and beyond).
Have you ever suffered from a head injury or concussion? How, if at all, has it triggered or exacerbated your migraine frequency or severity?
To read more about the relationship between migraine and concussion, please visit this link.
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