Samantha Sanderson’s interest in concussions was both professional and, unfortunately, personal long before she enrolled as a graduate student at Wright State’s School of Professional Psychology.
An elite soccer player growing up in Hilliard, just outside of Columbus, Sanderson earned a Division I scholarship and dreamed of playing professionally after her college career with the University of Miami Hurricanes. But she suffered a pair of concussions a short time apart in the spring of her junior season, followed by two more a brief time later that ended her playing career.
Sanderson completed her psychology degree at Miami and was working at the neuropsychology lab at Ohio State when she decided to go to grad school. About a month before leaving for WSU, she got into a car accident that left her with another concussion, and another altered life path.
“I was always interested in concussions and athletes, but I wasn’t passionate about it per se,” Sanderson said. “After the accident is when it hit me that ‘OK, I have to do something about this and get a little more involved. I really felt differently about it after having, let’s say, a refresher course.”
While still trying to recover from her latest concussion during the first year of her doctoral program at WSU, Sanderson came across a website called Life After the Game. It was created by Lauren Long, who also had to give up her collegiate soccer career because of concussions.
Together the two created a website called the Concussion Connection, which offers education and, more importantly, support.
“People who are dealing with concussions need other people to help them,” Sanderson said. “They can push through only so much on their own.”
Symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and memory loss are the ones most people associate with concussions. But there are deeper, less-recognized issues such as depression, anxiety, anger and frustration.
“When you can’t play, you can lose your sense of who you are and where you belong,” Sanderson said. “It can be especially tough when a player thinks they are ready to return but really they aren’t.
“Asking a concussed player if they can play is like asking a drunk driver if they can drive,” she continued. “They will fight you for those keys and say, ‘I’m fine. I can do it.’ But you know that they can’t.”
Sanderson said the purpose of the site is not to dissuade people from playing sports, but rather to help them make some of the key decisions that arise while trying to recover from a concussion.
“We are not anti-sports,” Sanderson said. “We love sports. Sports have done a lot for us. But at the same time you have to be aware of the risks and you have to understand there’s a time to stop. Where does that importance lie? How do you prioritize sports and living a normal life?”
Sanderson said she hopes to expand off the web and into actual counseling and treatment after completing her doctorate.
“We have bigger plans,” Sanderson said. “We’re hoping to secure some funding and go the non-profit route and focus more on the mental health side of the recovery process.”
Preseason pick: The WSU baseball team was picked third in the Horizon League preseason poll released Wednesday, and three Raiders were named to the all-league team.
Junior right-handed pitcher Travis Hissong was picked as the Horizon League Preseason Pitcher of the Year, and he was joined on the all-league team by junior first baseman Michael Timm and senior outfielder Kieston Greene.
WSU was scheduled to open the season this afternoon in Cary, N.C., but winter storm Pax forced cancelation of the team’s game against Butler. No decision has been made on the rest of the weekend slate, which is scheduled to begin with a noon Saturday contest against Monmouth.
Women’s basketball: Three days after knocking off first-place Youngstown State to move into a three-way tie for first place, the women’s basketball team dropped a 100-93 decision at Cleveland State to fall into a three-way tie for second.
The Raiders will play three of their next five at home, including a 2 p.m. Saturday game against Illinois-Chicago and a key contest against league-leading Wisconsin-Green Bay on Feb. 27.