I haven’t hit a shot all game. I need to make my mark. The guy I’m covering has me posted up around the middle of the free throw lane, a place where you normally can’t camp out except there really are no rules in a pickup game. I see they’re going to feed him the ball. He’s their best guy. I’m ready for it, positioned slightly off the side of my man. Here it comes. Ball hits the floor. I start my reach, already thinking of where to go after I steal the ball. My guy starts turning to move towards me earlier than expected. Too soon. There’s a human head where my human head is supposed to be. We collide. Head-to-head.

I don’t go down, I just get a little wobbly. I shake it off. My teammate asks if I’m okay. I confirm. We play on. We finish. We lose. I gather.

During that moment I think, “why did I keep playing?” During that moment I think my teammate knew what I didn’t want to know. I feel flush. I’m still myself, but I’m nervous I won’t be for much longer. I’ve been concussed before.

Hit the showers, head home. Hope this doesn’t become a thing. Know it’s going to become a thing.

The next day I’m a little off, but I’m not a total loss. I head to work. I’m quiet, I’m told. I’m irritable, I can tell. It’ll go away.

I have a few meetings, and they go as they go. I head to lunch, and I can feel it’s kicking in. My balance isn’t all there (it never is though, I tell myself), and I feel like my head is in the clouds (probably because I’ve been sitting all day, right?).

I get back to my desk, and I’m doing my lunch routine…bouncing around between chats and reading articles while I eat. I can’t really do it though. Either part of it. I’m lost. And I finally accept my fate. I head to the ER.

It’s not fun being in the ER. Last time there was a drunk guy screaming about sandwiches. A girl vomited in a bag three seats down from me. I moved to the other side of the waiting room. They called my name eventually. They’ll call it again soon.

I knew I couldn’t look at screens. That’s one of the top rules for concussions. No screens. I tried to read my book. No dice. Much worse than screens. I sit in near silence for 2+ hours. My girlfriend arrives. We chat. We wait.

My name is called. I go into a room. I explain to someone what happened. She brings in another someone. I explain to the new someone what happened. She asks me questions. She gives me simple tests. She looks at the back of my head. She tells me things I know and things I can assume. Can’t wait for the bill.

I tell her I’m worried. I don’t know how many concussions I’ve had in my life from football. It makes me scared for what my brain will become with age. What I’ll become with age. Not Junior Seau, I know. But maybe still something less than I hope to be. Because I didn’t know back then. Because no one told us back then. Because we’d just shake it off back then. Because no one told us back then. But they knew back then. They told us don’t lead with your head back then. They told us it might hurt your neck back then.

I bought a cowboy collar. Neck protected.

The doctor tells me there’s nothing they can really do. A CT scan will show you your brain, sure. It won’t tell you anything about concussions. They can’t see that till you’re dead. Then they can cut your brain open. Tell you what went wrong. They’ll tell you all about it when you’re dead.

She doesn’t say that last part. She doesn’t need to. She tells me I’m as mild as a concussion gets. No nausea. No slouching. No real concerns. I’ll be fine.

Here’s a packet to read. It say everything you need to know. Like that you shouldn’t read.

Rest is all I can do. And it’s all I do. I can’t go to work. I work on a screen. No screens.

I lay in bed. I lay in the dark. I listen to a podcast. I listen to a podcast. I listen to a podcast. I listen to soft music. I listen to a podcast. No visual stimulation.

I test the waters. I feel a little better. I rest.

I try to work. I get a little dizzy. I rest.

I try a little more every day. If I get overwhelmed, I rest.

It’s been over a week. I’m back at work. I can’t do a full day, but I try. Then I rest.

It’s been over a week. This was a “mild” concussion. I still can’t do much.

It could be weeks, they said. It could be months, even. Just rest. Your brain needs rest.

Don’t exercise. Not till your ready. And when you are ready, make it light. A stationary bike, they say, so your head can still rest.

It’s been over a week. This is a mild concussion. I still feel it. I’ll still feel it for weeks.

I’ll be fuzzy when I turn too fast. I’ll be off-balance when I stand too fast.

My instinct was to play through it. Football still pumps through my veins. Surging past my years of boycott.

Bump your head, think of football. If this is mild, what about those guys?

We didn’t know back then it was killing people. People knew. We didn’t. Nobody told us.

We know it’s killing people now. Who cares? Gotta support the team.

Hop in a blue tent, if you’re a pro. Take a couple days off, if you’re a pro. Shake it off, if you’re a pro.

Shut down everything, if you’re not. It’ll take weeks or months, if you’re not. Lay in the dark, don’t move a muscle, if you’re not.

They know what they signed up for. They just don’t know what they don’t know yet.