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Mar25WedCorey Koskie thought no one understood his battle wth post-concussion syndrome. But Someone did. March 25, 2020 by Jayne Thurber-Smith
Corey Koskie went all the way from hitting rocks with a wooden bat on a farm outside Winnipeg to manning third base for the Minnesota Twins. After enjoying seven years with the Twins, he played for a year with the Toronto Blue Jays and then went on to the Milwaukee Brewers.
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But three months into that 2006 season, Corey went from living the dream to a waking nightmare. It began when he tried to chase down a routine pop-up in a game against the Cincinnati Reds.
A Personal Prison
“I sprinted to the spot where I thought the ball would land,” he recalls, “but when I looked up, the ball was behind me. I fell backward and got my glove underneath the ball. When my glove hit the dirt, the impact sent the ball back in the air. Our shortstop was right there to catch it. The crowd went wild.”
Unfortunately, as the game progressed, Corey began to hear all sounds as a jumbled mess, and the ground felt mushy underfoot. He tried to shake it off but couldn’t concentrate no matter how he tried. He finally told the trainer he didn’t feel well and was taken to the training room, where he was diagnosed with a concussion.
When Corey got home that day, he thought he could just rest it off, but he continued to feel weird sensations, such as the room spinning and the floor moving when he tried to walk. For a week and a half, he tried to minimize what he was experiencing and push through it, and finally the symptoms went away.
“I felt great,” he remembers, “until I stepped on the field. After warming up, I felt sick.”
The team sent Corey back to the hotel to sleep it off.
“When I woke up, I had the worst head pain of my life,” he says. “My symptoms went from a zero to a 10, just like that. For the next two and a half years, I battled these symptoms. Every day, all the time. I’d try to do little things around the house, and the room would spin. I had bouts of anxiety, depression and obsessive thoughts.”
Forget about a baseball comeback—Corey feared he would never get his life back.
Making him feel even worse was the fact that no one really understood what he was up against, because everything he suffered was internal.
“If I were to write a book about my concussion experience it would be titled If I Only Had a Cast,” he says. “It’s literally in your head, so people don’t see that. You have all these demons pounding you, and all the tools you’ve used to deal with your stuff in the past don’t work. I couldn’t read or write or even go on the computer because everything made me feel sick. I couldn’t drive, or talk on the phone. I was in my own personal prison.”
Corey sought refuge in the basement of his house, where he could shut the doors and find absolute quiet.
“I would just lie there,” he says. “On the wall, there was a framed Bible verse plaque that read, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). I would stare at that and God would give me peace, because I’d have to be still with my mind and be OK not doing anything else.”
As Corey waited on God, he went through a series of doctors until he found the right one to treat him, and he finally began to see progress in his recovery. He learned that many athletes try to return to the game too fast, which makes them susceptible to brain injuries.
“The mistake that I made was trying to rush myself back because I really wanted to play, and that cost me my career,” he says.
The day came when the doctor finally said, “Medically, you’re fine, so I will clear you. But you’ve got a great family that you love. Why would you still want to play baseball? If you get another concussion, I don’t know what will happen.”
“All I knew was that playing baseball would mean I was my view of normal,” Corey says. “So I tried again. I got a minor league invite with the Chicago Cubs and they were incredible to me. I played a couple of games, but then in the third game I dove for a ball and kind of felt funny. I pulled myself off the field and said, ‘I’m done. It’s not worth it.’ I walked away on my own terms.”
A Necessary Ending
Now coaching his own kids’ teams, he knows that early retirement was the best thing that could have happened to him.
“It was a necessary ending at that time,” he says. “I am so glad I have been able to have these years with my boys.”
Corey hopes to encourage the next generation of kids by sharing his own and other athletes’ stories of what God can do on his website Linklete.com. He still deals with anxiety but continues to fight it with the sword of the Spirit, the Bible, just as he did in his basement a dozen years ago.
“Everybody deals with the voice of self-doubt and what-if, and I have a few go-to verses for that,” he says. “Philippians 4:6 says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ ”
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury. Any blow to the head, face or neck may cause a concussion, and it can also be caused by a blow to the body if the force of the blow causes the brain to move around inside the skull.
What Is PCS?
Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a set of symptoms that may continue for weeks, months or a year or more after a concussion. About 15 percent of individuals with a history of a single concussion develop persistent symptoms associated with the injury.
A diagnosis may be made when symptoms resulting from concussion last for more than three months after the injury.
Though there is no specific treatment for PCS, symptoms can be improved with medications and physical and behavioural therapy. Education about symptoms and details about expectation of recovery are important. The majority of PCS cases resolve after a period of time.