Kazu | Ridgewood, New Jersey

Kazu | Ridgewood, New Jersey

A lifelong soccer player, Kazu, 17, was participating in pre-game warm up drills with his soccer team in October 2017. After a series of heading drills, Kazu noticed that something was off. Despite feeling this way, he still played in the soccer game later that day. Once the game ended, Kazu developed an intense headache and felt “incredibly lethargic.” Unfortunately, these symptoms did not go away.

Concussion Symptoms

Kazu, who his mother describes as usually happy, confident, and carefree teenager, was now spending a lot of time isolated in his bedroom sleeping. He was experiencing the following symptoms, which the family would later learn, were from a concussion:

  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Nausea

With his symptoms worsening, Kazu and his family knew that he needed to seek help.

Concussion Diagnosis

During the next few months, Kazu went to more than ten doctors seeking help for the treatment of his concussion. Kazu’s mother, Martha, remembers feeling hopeless during that time. “Doctors we saw told him to rest, pamper himself, spend time in dark rooms, and listen to his brain telling him to slow down.”
Kazu was also instructed not to play soccer during his recovery. This was incredibly difficult for Kazu, since so much of his identity and purpose was wrapped up in the game. Martha remembers, “Our son changed into a depressed, anxiety-ridden, angry child whom we barely recognized.”

Not wanting to give up hope, Martha eventually found the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program when searching online for concussion treatment programs.

Concussion Recovery

Kazu and his mother made the seven-hour drive from their home in New Jersey to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh so that they could meet with Michael “Micky” Collins, PhD, clinical and executive director, to talk about Kazu’s concussion. While they were not quite sure what to expect during the first appointment, Martha says, “After just one appointment, Kazu started to make signs of improvement. It was night and day!”

The biggest difference when compared to what Kazu had been hearing from doctors before arriving at UPMC, was Dr. Collins’ recommendation of a comprehensive treatment plan that included exertion therapy. This active, specialized therapy was designed to strengthen and rehabilitate Kazu’s vestibular system.

As part of this treatment plan, Dr. Collins told Kazu that he could return to exercise and physical activity. Martha says that she remembers Kazu’s face light up in the exam room when he heard this news. She says, “Driving home from Pittsburgh we didn’t go straight home—we stopped at a gym so he could do something active!”

The Outcome

After sticking with his treatment plan, Kazu was cleared by Dr. Collins in early May 2018. He fully returned to his pre-concussion activities, which included playing soccer, and he finally felt like he was back to his old self. Thanks in part to Kazu’s successful concussion treatment plan, he’s looking forward to continuing to play soccer next year in college.

Thinking back on the experience, Martha remembers the months that Kazu spent alone in a dark room because they were told it would be his best chance at recovering. She says, “The myths are not true! UPMC gave me my son back and I am so thankful.”

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