Featured Image: A grainy picture of the blog author, Jeff, wearing a black sweatshirt and blue jeans, standing by a damaged stock car that is yellow on the top half and red with blue stripes on the bottom. A sign on the driver’s door reads ‘Motor Works Automotive Ltd’. The car appears to be from the 1980s era.
My name is Jeff, I’m an ex-beer league goalie, who also raced Enduro Stock Cars in the 1980’s. I’ve been effected by a lifetime of concussions, I’m a Leafs fan, hey, no wisecracks. I’m also a vegan.
As a kid growing up in the 1960’s, a combination of being a bit of a daredevil, and also being in the wrong place at the wrong time, led to many bumps on the head, and even stitches. Back in those days, a lot of the time, my head was my helmet. I figured things like seeing stars and having ringing ears was just a part of life,like a scraped knee or something.
Hockey was, and still is, my favourite sport. But I also loved car racing, and as a kid I always said to people that I was going to race cars when I grow up. For four years in the 1980’s, I raced Enduro Stock Cars at Sunset Speedway south of Barrie, Ontario. It was the lowest, cheapest, and by far the most aggressive division in short track stock car racing back then. It was kind of like being in the ‘Slap Shot’ movie of car racing. We’d be allowed to crash into each other, and wipe each other out at speeds up to 100 km/h. I guess it was the only way to get fans to watch our division. My friends, and even my dad, would all get a kick out of seeing me climb out of mangled cars seemingly unscathed. I destroyed three cars in four years of racing. I would rarely mention the headaches, brain fog, and a sort of distant feeling I would get after very hard collisions, unless it was bad enough for me to go to the doctor.
In 1989, I needed back surgery for a herniated disk. The doctor said it was a real mess in there from all the impacts, he said no more car racing, so I gave it up.
In the early 1990’s, for the first time since I was a kid, I felt like playing organized hockey. So I started playing in a beer league as a goalie. Along with getting pucks in the head, I was also getting sticks and elbows in the head because I tended to get crashed into a lot. At times I would see stars and/or have ringing ears for a while after getting hit in the head. Also at times I would get the same dull headache and brain fog I got during my racing days. In the early 2000’s I would start to see stars more easily during games, it could even happen by just dropping to the ice to make a save at times. In 2003, I started losing my balance and feeling light headed all the time. I told my team I might have to take a break for a few games. My balance never improved, and I never went back to hockey.
I was sent to a neurologist, I told him about the car racing, and goaltending. He sort of just shrugged it off. He decided to do some MRI’s looking for MS. He did that a few times over the years. When the MRI’s would come back okay, he would just send me on my way without any answers.
In 2015, I was sitting in my parked car in a Tim Hortons parking lot, having a coffee. An elderly woman left the road while accidentally flooring her car, she crashed into mine. My car was a write off, and I received another concussion. I was a mess.
I would get varying degrees of queasiness and nausea all the time, which years later have mostly passed. Still to this day, my balance is even worse than it was before the collision, I forget words and names, my spell check gets a real workout, my ears ring 24/7, I read slower and have trouble understanding what I’m reading at times, my thinking feels like I’m fumbling around for pieces of a puzzle, at times when I reach to straighten my glasses my hand might go into the middle of my forehead or cheek instead, I can forget things like if I shaved or washed dishes a half hour ago, and the list goes on. Since the car accident, doctors now believe that it was my long history of concussions that was bothering me all along.
I find that there is a certain insecurity that comes with having an ailment that does not show up on x-rays, or blood tests. For a long time I figured that it was just me that felt that way. But I have come to learn that it is a common thread among people with this invisible injury. I feel that coming together at times with other people with similar experience is sort of like being on a team again. And if that leads to more awareness, and even research, perfect!
Jeff enjoys making YouTube videos, working on his webpage, JeffTheLeafsFan.ca, walking, and watching his beloved Leafs.
A version of this post was originally published at HeadsupCAN.ca.