A CHS senior overcomes multiple concussions along the path to collegiate soccer
January 11, 2023
Stevens continued to play through concussion after concussion, until she was finally forced to stop. During her junior year, Stevens experienced a secondary concussion and additional brain trauma all within the month of Sep.
After the initial concussion, Stevens experienced a constant headache with little to no relief. After the second one, she struggled with basic reading and listening comprehension.
The severity of these symptoms should have forced her to pause competing in soccer. However, Stevens’ coaches wanted to win, this meant Stevens in the goalie position.
The first few matches of the season would be essential to securing the team’s spot in high level tournaments. Stevens refused to throw away everything she had worked for during pre-season.
Unfortunately, during one of these showcase matches, Stevens took a blow to her cerebral cortex. She began to experience extreme derealization which would evolve into depersonalization throughout the following months. Stevens attempted to vocalize her concerns, but coaches refused to take her seriously insisting that she continue to play.
“I couldn’t view the world the same,” Stevens said. “I didn’t feel real and the world around me didn’t feel real.”
When it comes to healing from a concussion, Stevens was told by her doctors that they had little information on the process. They explained that recovery would vary from person to person, and Stevens would need to feel it out for herself.
“In the beginning, I was right there with [my coaches] pushing myself,” Stevens said. “I was actually pushing myself more than them.”
As she continued playing, Stevens’ executive function and physical condition deteriorated. Against the wishes of her head coaches, a goalie training coach forced her to stop. During practices, this coach noticed Stevens struggling to stand or even make it through warm-up drills.
Stevens was benched for nearly two months, missing showcase matches and countless recruitment opportunities. Without support from her coaches or teammates, Stevens was falling out of love with soccer altogether.
“At some point they just gave up on me and I felt like I had no one in my corner, ” Stevens said. “I wasn’t even a person anymore. My own label and identity was just my injury—that was not even visible.”
— Bella Stevens
If Stevens was going to get her life back, something needed to change. It was during this low point that Stevens met someone, her now girlfriend, who reminded her that healing was worth it. This built the motivation to get her grades up and rebuild her mental and physical health.
Stevens began changing her coping mechanisms and doing everything in her power to further her recovery. Whether it was hours or PT or constantly tracking her BPM. Slowly, Stevens did heal. Although the damage done to her brain would never fully disappear, Stevens was able to start training for soccer again and keep her grades up in school.
Stevens learned three main tools to aid the healing process: time management, prioritizing recovery and planning ahead. Stevens attributes her recovery to these skills and believes they will be the key to success in college as well as the rest of her life.
In late April of her junior year, Stevens had a skate-boarding accident that resulted in her most recent concussion. Although she was initially terrified of losing all of her recovery progress, Stevens soon discovered that this injury would not set her back. She would not slip into another patch of demotivation and depression.
She would push through this injury straight till the end of her season. College soccer had been pushed to the back of Stevens mind, until an un-passable opportunity presented itself.
Stevens was offered a position at her dream college—a top tier school. After overcoming six brain injuries, Stevens is committed to play soccer in college.