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Advanced concussion care for weekend warriors

Stephanie Garrison concussion storyStephanie Garrison is a competitor. At 27, the former collegiate soccer player fills her downtime with soccer, softball and sand volleyball.

So when an opponent body-checked her into a wall during an indoor soccer game, she took it in stride, rested a few minutes and returned to play.

“I didn’t have any unusual symptoms, so I assumed I was OK,” she said.

Two or three days later, Garrison felt the real impact of her injury – persistent headaches and some dizziness. Trips to a family physician and several specialists followed – along with a diagnosis of severe concussion.

Medication and rest didn’t help. Her headache became “the worst I’d ever had,” she said. “I wasn’t sleeping. I had trouble focusing. And I just felt off.”

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She was referred to The University of Kansas Hospital’s Center for Concussion Management and neurologist Michael Rippee, MD.

Dr. Rippee performed a series of tests and isolated the source of her pain. Her neck was injured “when her head whipped around during impact,” he said. “We are learning that the nerves in the neck, housed in the cervical spinal cord, can sometimes play a big role in balance and pain related to concussion.”

He sent Garrison to the Center for Sports Medicine for physical therapy, which isolated the vertebrae that weren’t moving like they should and increased her range of motion. Treatment included exercises to increase flexibility.

Gradually, she began to see results and later returned to play with a new appreciation for good health.

“I’m still very competitive but know my limits now. I play aggressively but know that it’s just a game.”