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Concussion: A Cheerleader’s Story

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Adrienne “Adda” Ashcraft

In May, Adrienne “Adda” Ashcraft sustained a concussion and didn’t know it. The Hoban cheerleader was playing football with a group of high school football players.

“I got the ball,” she said. “My friend grabbed me and threw me over his shoulder. My head was down his back, like a sack of potatoes. He started running and hit gravel. He slid, and we both went down. My head broke the fall for both of us.”

A bad headache that wouldn’t go away.

She didn’t realize she was hurt, but her football buddies suspected she had been concussed.

“I went to work the next morning and didn’t feel well all day. I had a bad headache, and I was really slow and fuzzy.”

Adda worked at an ice cream shop, but she had trouble keeping the orders straight. “The next day I realized the grogginess wasn’t going away. I came home from work and went straight to bed.”

ImPACT testing revealed the cause.

Adda had senior exams the next day, and she was worried.

Adrienne’s advice? “Don’t doubt yourself if you think something’s wrong. Get it checked out right away.”

“My headache got worse and I felt nauseous and groggy,” she said. “I had no idea what was wrong with me. I figured I was sick.”

Luckily, the football player who dropped her had just recovered from a concussion himself, and he recognized the symptoms.

“After talking to him, I went down to the trainer after school, and she started doing the concussion ImPACT test, going through the questions to determine my symptoms,” Adda said. “The trainer said I needed to see Dr. Congeni immediately.”

Dr. Joe Congeni is the director of Akron Children’s Sports Medicine Center and a leading expert on concussion in young athletes. He examined Adda 3 days after her injury and diagnosed her concussion.

At the Mum day game.

At the Mum day game.

“His office was an absolute miracle,” said Adda. “I went in weekly, and they redid the ImPACT test each time I came in.”

Dr. Congeni prescribed immediate rest and therapy.

“We would do 10 minutes of cardio, then strength training,” said Adda. “The therapist would massage the back of my neck to increase blood flow.”

During that time, Dr. Congeni wanted Adda to rest her brain. “They exempted me from my exams that week,” she said. “They didn’t even want me texting – nothing to stimulate my brain. He gave me pills for nausea and ibuprofen for my headache.”

After 3 weeks of therapy, she felt much better.

“I could start my normal activities, but I wasn’t able to tumble in cheerleading right away. I finally tumbled in cheerleading camp at the end of July.”

By August, she was completely back to normal. Today, Adda is more prone to headaches and at greater risk of concussion if she hits her head again.

Her advice? “Don’t doubt yourself if you think something’s wrong. Get it checked out right away.”

Advocating for patients like Adda.

Dr. Congeni’s care extends far beyond the treatment he provides his own patients. To better protect them as well as young athletes across Ohio, he collaborated with Charlie Solley, Akron Children’s director of government relations to drive state-wide concussion legislation.

Adrienne and her mother.

Adrienne and her mother.

Dr. Congeni’s national reputation as an advocate for young athletes proved invaluable.

“He had the clinical expertise to reassure legislators about return-to-play decision makers and cost, points that had stalled the process,” said Solley.

After making numerous trips to Columbus and meeting with lawmakers at the hospital, our team saw their bill passed in December 2012.

Akron Children’s Hospital routinely and proactively improves the lives of children through changes in public policy. Thanks to advocates like Dr. Congeni and Charlie Solley, our teamwork is protecting kids not only in Ohio but across the nation.

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