My Upcoming Appointment

I have put this doctor’s appointment off twice now. The COVID-19 effect has delayed it some. My Mom has recently and strongly urged me not to postpone it again. She has told me a few different times “Dwain, you need to go so that preparations can be made for a more considered lifestyle as you approach your sixties.” You see, Mom is right. Mothers usually are aren’t they? She should know. Mom has medically diagnosed Dementia. One of her sisters had Dementia. She is now deceased. The other has Stage 2 or Middle Alzheimer’s. Mom reminds me frequently, because she forgets 😄, that Alzheimer’s can be hereditary. However, if it were not for my long, active career in football/soccer as a goalkeeper, I likely would not be taking Mom too serious.

But I really do need to go because of the whole soccer thing for 27-years. Throughout that career I suffered from at least four (probably more) concussions from game collisions, one or two traumatic, and some at practices/training. One of the game collisions broke my jaw in three places and knocked me completely unconscious; unconscious long enough for EMT’s to arrive with smelling-sauce to awaken me.

Though I am still a little worried. It is just that what the doctor may inform me after these second battery of tests that I am indeed in the early stages of CTE, or what is medically and neurologically termed as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The Mayo Clinic explains CTE this way:

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the term used to describe brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas. CTE is a diagnosis made only at autopsy by studying sections of the brain.

[…]

CTE has been found in the brains of people who played football and other contact sports, including boxing. It may also occur in military personnel who were exposed to explosive blasts. Some signs and symptoms of CTE are thought to include difficulties with thinking (cognition), physical problems, emotions and other behaviors. It’s thought that these develop years to decades after head trauma occurs.

Have you seen the 2015 film Concussion starring Will Smith? If not, here is its official trailer:

Even though soccer/football concussions occur nowhere near as often as they do in the NFL, it is nonetheless a serious matter. This film hit me hard and hit deep, so deep at the end it made me sit in the living room recliner seemingly paralyzed and with abnormal breathing. Why? Why such a reaction? Two reasons:

  1. Mom and two of her four sisters had/has Dementia/Alzheimer’s. One of them died too soon to conclude with certainty that she had Alzheimer’s—we’ll never know. Plus, two of that aunt’s four children are very religious (Pentecostal, Church of Christ?), another passed away early before my aunt died, and her youngest boy, my cousin I grew up with and was closer to was not confrontational nor religious at all. He was a hilarious peacemaker. I say all of this because there was no way in Hades that the two oldest, very religious cousins of mine were going to allow a medical examination of their mother’s brain. Therefore, it has only been confirmed that two, my Mom and her sister have dementia with the latter definitely suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  2. As I mentioned earlier, I have suffered at least 4 or more concussions, likely more, and one of them knocked me unconscious for quite some time. During my playing days there was no Petr Cech padded helmets in existence (see image below). In addition to these multiple soccer/football concussions, I suffered another off-the-field of play. One early morning while—in high school freshman or sophomore year—delivering my papers for my Dallas Morning News paper route. Mom was driving me through the neighborhoods in our Plymouth four-door sedan while I was outside on top of the trunk with two-bags of those Sunday morning papers. On one particular street turn Mom accelerated a bit too fast. I imagine the sedan had also been washed and waxed one or two days earlier? I’m unsure. I think Mom was approaching 30 mph after turning onto this street and unfortunately for me she was not looking at me through the rear-view mirror. I slowly slid down the trunk feet first, desperately trying to find something on the car to grab, but there was nothing. I hit the street pavement that had small grey-white gravel embedded and the back of my head SLAMMED into the concrete. Our family doctor later that day said I had a bad concussion judging from the swelling on the back of my noggin and he made it very clear that my parents were not to allow me any sleep for the next 24-hours.

The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms of CTE:

“There are no specific symptoms that have been clearly linked to CTE. Some of the possible signs and symptoms of CTE can occur in many other conditions, but in the few people with proven CTE, symptoms have included:

  • Difficulty thinking (cognitive impairment)
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Depression or apathy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks (executive function)
  • Emotional instability
  • Substance misuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior”
Cech helmet_1

Petr Cech of Chelsea FC, Arsenal, and the Czech Republic national team wearing his padded helmet following his major head concussion, trauma, and depressed skull fracture from a collision with Stephen Hunt of Reading FC.

I have six of these first eight symptoms, to varying degrees, for at least the last 15-years or so, one or two of them surfacing within the last 5-6 years. This is why my neurologist wants to see me again, and my Mom and I both agreed two years ago that I do need to go see a neurologist to get ahead of this. Either early in 2019 or late in 2018 I did go. The doctor concluded after testing that I was inconclusive at that date and time, BUT the fact that I had almost all of the currently known symptoms, made him want to see me again in a year.

Damn it! It has now been a year and if anything, I know with a lot of certainty that two of these above eight symptoms have manifested further. There are other external variables at play with these two—one being this unprecedented pandemic, social-distancing, and Stay-at-Home orders—so we must take those variables into consideration. Does that make this upcoming appointment Wednesday, May 20, 2020, any less anxious? Not really, not for me.

I hope this coming Wednesday night, Thursday, and subsequent days after will not be ladened with as Mom put it… “a more considered lifestyle as I approach my sixties.” From what I’ve learned about dementia, Alzheimer’s, and CTE I hope I might be a lucky goalkeeper who by some incredible odds does not develop any of these three neurological disorders for playing a sport and position I truly loved. Fingers crossed.

————

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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She Was A Knockout!

I had retired from my semi-pro and professional soccer career and was in a transition trying to decide what I wanted to do next.  It was 1996 and for the time being I was helping a friend manage one of north Dallas’ well-known nothing-but-soccer retail stores.  Many times coaches, team captains, and booster-clubs would come in for assistance in ordering team uniforms for the upcoming school or amateur league seasons.  This time of year also included the local women’s teams and co-ed teams.  But before I go any further, let me explain the well-known fact risk a “retired” male professional (and lifetime single-gender) soccer player takes when joining an amateur co-ed team and league.

The Play-At-Your-Own-Peril Rule

Notice-Play-At-Risk-SignI began playing soccer at the age of ten.  By middle school I was playing competitive soccer – what today is called select soccer – and wanted not only to play professionally, but try to at least make the U.S. Men’s National Team roster.  What was often whispered among such serious players with such lofty dreams was try your best not to play with or against the clueless recreational teams and players, but more critically never play with or against girls.  Now ladies, before you go into your rant, please bear with me and let me explain what it’s about and why it was a whispered rule.

First of all, not playing against recreational teams is a policy most major sports franchises enforce and hence protect their high-valued stars.  Second of all, and a lesson I learned several times in my career, from a tactical and confidence standpoint the stronger professional players gain very little or nothing at all by playing the weaker/amateur team other than a practice, or an opportunity to let 2nd and 3rd stringers get playing time.  In those rare cases the pro team takes a slim chance in damaging their status or image if they play poorly or worse, lose.

The reason male pro players almost never play competitively against women – and I am genuinely not trying to insult female athletes – is for the simple reason that both teams and genders risk unnecessary injury.  In sports, on the whole, women’s bodies move differently than men’s.  Momentum, for whatever reason, is initiated and managed differently between the genders.  If you don’t believe me, simply watch the two sexes in slow-motion action and how they ‘collide’.

It is a well-established unspoken rule that in competitive contact sports a man plays at his own risk against women.  I had known this law for eighteen years.

The Never-ending Beer and Female Introductions Carrot

Returning now to 1996, three attractive female soccer players have been visiting our soccer store often in preparation for the upcoming co-ed season opener.  Their player roster is also not complete; they desperately need a goalkeeper!  For reasons unknown to me, no one presently on the team wanted to play goalkeeper.  And before these very charming women asked, I knew exactly what was about to come out of their seductive mouths…. “We have heard about how good a goalkeeper you are and that you’ve even played professionally!”  Huh!?  I wasn’t expecting that approach!  Hmm, I’ll give ‘em that…. stroking my ego is a good tactical move.  But you ladies, I was thinking, are going to have to come up with a lot more before I even entertain the remote possibility of risking my safety!  I shook my head two or three times, No, sorry ladies.

ColdBeerHotWomenAnd then came the coup d’état.

We will buy” they countered with smirks “all of your beer after every game and promise to introduce you to a minimum of three HOT women players each weekend!”  To say I was aroused would be gross understatement.  “When does the season start?” I replied.

In my hyper-excited mind, I imagined consecutive weekends of hot dates galore and massive amounts of sleep-overs.  The score line of our games or whether we had a winning season or not was of absolutely no concern for me.  I happily signed my lop-sided contract!

Game 1 of 12

The referee’s opening whistle blew.  The comical usual cheering and smack-talk began from both teams and their fans/family members on the sidelines.  It truly made me laugh; I had already heard the most abusive and slandering and loudest rhetoric in my career having played around the world.  I was more entertained by my thoughts of the post-game festivities.  Damn, we were only about ten minutes into our game.  Ah, here comes a cross into my penalty box from my left, between the penalty spot and the eighteen-yard line….easy, easy pickings.  I quickly come out to snatch it.

I scream the usual scream to my defense “Keeper’s!”  I launch into my usual very high-vertical leap, snag the ball with extended arms ABOVE my head, and as per my umpteen years of training and experience proceed to pull the ball down into my chest….. but then SLAM and everything goes black and silent.

The next moment I remember are the EMT’s putting the smelling sauce under my nose.  HOLY SHIT my entire jaw and face are in excruciating pain!  The EMT’s keep asking me several questions, load me onto their gurney, and I am transported to the nearest ER.  There the attending physician informs me that I need 10 stitches on my right under side edge of my chin, and my jaw is broken in two places on the left side near the front of my ear.  I will also have to have my jaw and mouth wired shut for six to eight weeks.  Two of those three women who talked me in to playing are there consoling me “…they didn’t score.”  With my best scolding look I murmured what I hoped sounded like “This is NOT how I wanted to frickin meet women!”  I mean shit, I never even saw her!  How many beers could have been bought with the upcoming ambulance, emergency room, and doctors bill!?

My co-ed season was over before it began.

Manchester United's Jones is carried off the pitch on a stretcher during their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal in London

Image courtesy of rakball.net

Further details of the collision shared by them made my predicament even more depressing – and over time, made theirs a favorite pub story.  A long story short, the girl THOUGHT by unimaginable lotto odds, she’d have a chance to head that ball…. with her eyes closed for God’s sake!  The top of her head hit my chin if that gives you ANY idea of how wrong she was!  And by the way, that ball she thought she could head was firmly in my hands three-feet above my chin!  In my profession, on my futebol pitch, with other professional male athletes, it was a NO BRAINER that no one could have had any chance of getting their head on that ball.  They would not have even jumped!  I hope as you are reading you are picking up on my enraged astonishment.

May 2013

I am fortunate to have great dental genetics from both parents.  As I was taught by my parents, I take above average care of those teeth.  As a result, I have learned that my mouth is fine with irregular orthodontic checkups; like on the every 3 to 5 year frequency or more.  In fact, I did not get my first cavity until I was 24-years old and it was barely a cavity.  Often orthodontists would admire my teeth, entire mouth and all my wisdom teeth.

This time I was returning to the dentist after twelve years.  However, this visit I knew I was well past the “praise” of the hygienist and her doctor:  I had what was likely a developing abscess.  I was expecting the dreaded line “Yes, it will have to come out.”  But then my new orthodontist asked a question that was totally from left field.

Have you ever had a traumatic facial injury?

The Good News, the Bad News, and the Recurring News

My orthodontist confessed that he really didn’t have to ask that question; he knew I had had a traumatic facial injury.  He was viewing all the evidence on the x-rays up in the light.  In his many years of practice he had seen it a thousand times.  And once again, I had to retell the above story to him.  As I was about to begin, I thought to myself, that damn invisible woman is STILL haunting me!  And that proverbial line:  I didn’t even get her name.  The dentist begins his verdict…

The good news is that for not being in for a checkup and cleaning for ages, your condition is good and normal.  The bad news is that not only does that abscessed tooth need to come out, but you have two more that need extraction, probably a fourth, and maybe a fifth.  “And you know what’s strange about your condition,” he asked, “you don’t have cavities in any of those 3-5 teeth!”  The erupting roots in all those teeth are a result of that facial injury.

Now over the next 3-weeks, I will be getting surgical extractions, fitted for a 3 or 5 toothed denture, and paying $2,500 – $5,000 to stop any further problems; from a problem that began with:  When does the season start?

The 1970’s Carpenters song Close to You goes on and on in my head:

That is why all the girls in town
(Girls in town)
Follow you
(Follow you)
All around
[But I saw nothing!]…
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

* * * * * * * * * *

An All-Points-Bulletin for athletic men who have weakened will-power around all things seductively female:

Sooner or later, one way or another, you WILL pay for a woman’s company, that introduction, and anything else you desire of her!

(paragraph separation)

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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This work by Professor Taboo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.professortaboo.com/contact-me/.