Category Archives: BMX/MTB Racing

The Contact Sports Tax on Vision

Railing the last turn in first, I felt heat close to me both high and low and was determined to beat these guys across the line and not get tangled up or snaked by one or both. I got on the gas hard.

I would never again be physically, mentally, and athletically stronger than I was in this moment.

Jay Fraga, Mass State Championships

I don’t remember anything about the race prior to that or even who I was racing against. I do know that it was a state championship race here in Massachusetts and it was 2-3 years before the big crash that ultimately finished me off in BMX. There was one obstacle left: a step-up jump and maybe a 50-yard dash beyond that to the finish line. I gave it every ounce of energy that I had- and some that I didn’t. I never gave a shit about form when it came to my own racing: I didn’t care what happened as long as I crossed that finish line before everyone else. Most of my wins probably looked like I had parts and bolts flying off my bike and body when they happened after I turned thirty.

Running for the line when every cell in your body is screaming is something else. For me, it always meant that the world turned gray in my peripheral vision as I concentrated on the task at hand. It was like looking through binoculars and I knew that feeling ever since accidentally figuring out how to focus on the starting gate as a young boy. When you do it right, everyone else that you’re competing against fades into gray and disappears from the periphery.

It was always only about you, your focus, and what you were preparing to do to the guys who had the gall to get onto the gate with you, anyway. That’s what pure competition is.

Coming down the backside of the step jump, I gave it everything that I had knowing that we had another 50 to the line. Lungs, legs, and everything burned like gasoline had just been poured all over and ignited with a match. The scorers appeared out of the gray and I let out an involuntary growl/yell as I pushed and prepared to throw the bars forward in a last second lunge at the line. Twenty yards to go.

Then, I saw dark spots. Lots of them out of nowhere. They filled most of my vision. Concerning and never had it happen before. Then, the legs flared and locked up. Lactic acid.

I managed to stay up and cross the line before the other two guys making a run on me. The rest was ugly.

Through the spots, I saw the eyes grow wide on one of the people handing out place tickets as she realized that I was coming in hot and not necessarily for the #1 ticket she was holding up high. I flew to the right of her, laid it down on the side in the gravel, and went right into the fencing that separated the staging area from the bikes coming off the track at the line. It took some time and some heavy breathing for the legs to clear up to where I could flex or move them again. The spots stayed for a while. I was terrified and made a cardio appointment the following Monday thinking the spots meant something with my heart was going on.

The heart doctor had me walk for just over two minutes on his treadmill before he kicked me out: “I’m not sure what the root issue of your problem is”, he said- “but, it’s not related to your heart. You’re the healthiest person I’ve had on this treadmill in a long time.”

What I was dealing with took me another four or five years and a total of 10 eye doctors to figure out:

It was Post-Traumatic Vision Syndrome.

I’d never heard of it before, but it turns out that it’s common. Vision is one of the first things to go when you hit your head or take a big impact.

It’s so common in concussion patients, that it’s upsetting that knowledge of the condition really hasn’t pervaded most concussion clinics and doctors. Unfortunately, that’s still true to this day- nearly 13 years after this event that I’m describing. It can range in severity from just a slight convergence insufficiency which will make your life extremely difficult by itself to all kinds of other horrendous symptoms at the worst end of the spectrum.

In fact, I saw no less than 9 eye docs for these spots, lines, shadows, blurs, and holes in my vision and all were baffled. They were thick when I exerted myself and subsided when I rested. I moved on- and suffered, but kept racing. I was ignorant to what was going on with me.

A few years later, I had the crash that finally knocked me off the bike for good. With that, came a diagnosis of Post-Concussion Syndrome on top of the early vision problems that were also caused by crashing and impact. I had to figure out how to deal with both while keeping my feet glued to the planet. It was miserable and hell on earth.

One day, I wrote a desperate email to a famous neurodevelopmental optometrist named Doc Ruggiero and I can’t really overstate that I was “desperate”. My vision issues were worsening, and it was making it hard to live. I was at the end of my rope and really suffering.

She called me on a Saturday and left a voicemail that started out with, “I can help you”. I broke down.

She was so busy that it took six months to get in there, but when I finally did, I was treated to a 5 to 6-hour visual examination that would have given the Spanish Inquisition a run for it’s money. I puked during breaks throughout it and the physical and mental exhaustion was off the charts. That said, Doc Ruggiero uttered the magic words after the first hour:

“I can see everything that you’re talking about, Jay.”

I cried. Right there in the room. Doc might have cried a little, too.

“Jay, I see hallmarks of brain injury here.”

That was all that I needed to hear after so many appointments where mere OD’s and Ophthalmologists looked at me with no clue. Still, the words resonated in my mind.

“Brain Injury”.

As far as I knew, I “only” had around ten concussions.

If I only knew that I had closer to a hundred. Each shot that was strong enough to provoke seeing a flash or stars needed to be counted as one. It was the signal of the chemical and mechanical side of concussion: the streaming of potassium from stretched neurons after an impact.

Take all of those and the thousands of other shots I’d absorbed going all out over the course of my life, and I was now in trouble. These things accumulate. Doesn’t matter if you land flat on your ass- they all add up and your head still gets that shock transmitted into it.

I’ve been with Doc Ruggiero now for the past 7 years and progress takes accommodations (glasses with any number of prisms, tint, filter, binasal occluders, etc), vision therapy, and staying dedicated. My visual and vestibular system has gone from “non-functioning” during that time to “functioning, but fragile” now. Most importantly, we are measuring healing in those systems that may be at a glacial pace, but it’s still healing.

I spent almost six hours with Doc yesterday getting my yearly eval. It’s always tough. At the end of the day, I had a chance to ask her why it’s so important for those of us with contact-related issues to see someone with her qualifications. She was generous enough to answer below. Don’t sweat my eyes that took four drops each to dilate my pupils- I can’t see while we’re talking:

I may very well have CTE from all the damage that I’ve taken and some of you may as well, but that’s a different (yet related) topic. At the very least, there IS a tax to pay when it comes to contact sports. That tax will be paid in terms of white matter damage (short fuse, hard to concentrate, moody, etc) and visual damage. The earlier you start, the more you’ll have. Contact athletes will not escape playing without it- period and no amount of arguing from fans who love contact sports is going to change that fact ( , etc) . Just go ahead and get used to it.

If you play contact sports, prepare to pay the tax.

What you can do is be informed and understand what docs you’re going to need when it comes time to pay up- because you WILL pay up. I’m not putting this info out there for me- I’m putting it out there for your kids or you so that you have the road map that took me far too long to figure out via trial and error.

Visit a couple of sites for more info:

You can find doctor locators by area on those sites. Utilize them and stay away from garden-variety docs. They cannot help you, but these people will. Our lack of access to these FCOVD’s as well as our medical providers’ lack of familiarity with them is absolutely causing a whole lot of athletes to be walking around with undiagnosed vision issues from contact. That will not help any of them in the most crucial learning period of their lives and will result in poorer grades, learning difficulties, and less opportunity for a good job.

I shudder to think of all of the kids who were intelligent, but branded as hyper, inattentive, and not focused who weren’t handled correctly in school because they were actually suffering from an injury.

See the right providers. Please. This is the roadmap. Aside from the vision people, you’ll need a concussion specialist at the very least on your team.

Good luck,

Jay Fraga

California BMX Racing Pro Reflects on What He Thought He Knew

{Editor’s note:  Is it finally OK for BMX Racers to talk about concussions? This is MY sport and I feel like awareness in the racing ranks has been more difficult to achieve than in many other sports. BMX racers are a slightly different breed mentally and physically, to put it lightly. Most of us think that we were forged in iron until it’s irrefutably proven that we weren’t. By then, the damage is done and the regret is incredible. 

Today’s knowledge comes Straiiiiiiiighttttttt out of Fresno, California. If you’ve followed the National USABMX Racing scene, you either know or have heard of Austin. I first heard of this blazing fast grommet on the tail end of my own career as a washed-up cruiser racer. He was about 15 years old and lighting tracks up. Now, he’s a pro and in his early 20’s. He has learned some things over the course of his career that he’d like to pass on. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Wes

By Jay Fraga

Wes, I turned 42 this summer. The last four years have been hard.

Before I became this guy, I was a meat-eating, hard-charging, will-powered machine of a person. I believed that I could do anything. I still kind of believe that I can do anything. I raced bikes and loved it. The end came with what was my 8th concussion on paper. I know I’ve had many more than that. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Lots of pundits are out there discussing your well-being and what you should do. A lot of them are well-intentioned, but don’t speak from experience. Continue reading

Press Release: 2008 US Olympic Bronze Medalist and Three Time World Champion BMX Racer Donny “dR” Robinson Joins The Knockout Project’s Board of Directors



Belchertown, Massachusetts – January 17, 2013- The concussion education initiative, “The Knockout Project”, announced today the appointment of Donny Robinson to its board, the “KO Roundtable”.

Robinson, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Bronze Medalist in BMX Racing, brings valuable experience, knowledge, and reflection to the table in terms of concussive history. Robinson has suffered over twenty concussions in his two decades worth of racing. Recently, Donny has been speaking out to racers and parents about a subject that he never really thought twice about; while trying to convey the serious nature of identifying concussions, sitting out until healed, and seeking a doctor’s advice before returning to action. Continue reading

BMX Racer From California Speaks Out on the Effect Concussion Has Had on Her Life

{ Editor’s note: I first became aware of Sara the night that she crashed racing in Oregon. I got a message from a concerned mutual friend (a Nationally #1 Ranked BMX Racing mutual friend, at that) saying, “Hey, she popped up online and doesn’t sound real good- you should try to get in touch with her right away and encourage her to get checked out/rest/etc.” –  which I did right away. Despite that, Sara is now writing her story for us and has unfortunately become “one of us”.  – Jay }

By Sara Dooley

saraApril 14, 2013. This is the date I will always remember, my life now separated out to “before” and “after.”  If you lose a limb, the disability is tangible to the general population but when it is internal, people chose not to believe. It was the Sunday main even at the Great Northwest Nationals. I had gate 4, my favorite, and knew I had it in the bag to podium.  The gate dropped and off we went, Girls 36-40 Cruiser class. The riders to my left and right were trying to sandwich me in, and I was not giving up my line. I never saw the rider from the outside cut over to the inside until it was too late. I hit her back tire as she passed and off I went, head first into the dirt. About 2-3 hours later is when my memory came back. While I did not pass out, I did have amnesia. My memory came back when the arena was clear and the vendors were taking down their areas. No matter how hard I try, that time is not coming back to me.


Sara: Out Front in Oregon

After much pushing and prodding from my friends, I went to the Emergency Room that night. It seems I had broken my helmet where I hit and they were concerned there could be bleeding on the brain. The Doctor ordered a brain scan and thankfully there was no bleeding. They referred me to see my Doctor as soon as I made it back home and explained the severity of a concussion.The next morning I made the 12 hour drive home. Little did I know that my life had transformed.

After seeing my primary Doctor I was put in “isolation” as I call it for a week. No work, phone, TV,  lights, loud noises, or reading-just sleep. I thought this would be hard, but with my head hurting so bad, I wasn’t complaining. I literally slept for a week and then went back to work. This is when I realized something wasn’t right. I had a hard time concentrating, jobs that I could breeze through prior, were now difficult. The more I thought of how to process something, the more my head hurt. I still had a black eye and part of my head was bruised so people understood. Also, the injury was “new” so it was understandable and they accommodated the injured me.

As time went by and the bruising healed, my productivity reached the normal level, my personality came back (for the most part) people expected me to be back 100%. What they didn’t/don’t understand is I am not. It has been almost 4 months since my accident. I have to sleep more than most. Everything I do-no matter how simple, tires me out. Most just a little, but sometimes it takes me a week or more to recover. My brain is fried and sleep is the way it heals. It is like being drugged, no caffeine or anything will keep me from having to sleep. People don’t understand that sometime just a day at work wears me out, or spending the day at the track. Simple things that now leave me needing a day worth of sleep to get back to the new normal. My body can no longer regulate heat like it should. I have to use the air conditioning or drink gallons of ice water if I am going to be in higher temperatures. I have a hard time concentrating. I forget words and how to do things I have always known how to do. I have what I call “the wall” when I am trying to explain something. I can see it-and then the wall comes up and I cannot put it into words. The ability is just not there anymore. If I am tired I slur my words, or have a hard time pronouncing them. I can’t handle bright or flashing lights, they are a circuit overload and short out my brain and stop the ability to think in a logical way. I can’t track fast movement, like in action movies. If the music is too loud, it makes my head hurt. I used to listen to my headphones daily at work, but now I have a hard time listening to music and working at the same time. It feels as though it is too much for my brain to process at once. While these all may seem minor issues, they were not how I was before the accident, and people don’t understand there is a valid reason I cant explain something, can’t remember how to do something simple.

In response to my new shortcomings, people sigh, they roll their eyes, they tell me to knock it off. I’m to the point where I don’t explain anymore, I just apologize-for not being the person I was. This is never something someone should have to do. I find I don’t go out much, beyond the obvious of loud music and bright lights I just don’t want to have to explain myself or why I need to go home early because it was too much. I avoid conversations because I know I am lousy at participating if they become detailed. It has changed my life and trying to accept that, and learn how to live with the changes is hard. Every time I go to the Doctors they move my recovery date. It started out as 1-2 months, then 2-3, and now 6-12. They say what hasn’t come back or healed by the 12 month mark is most likely going to be permanent. They want me to accept this and be prepared for it. Every day I think of what might stay and what may heal-which I think I can live with more than others. I wish I didn’t have to think this way. I wish I could express myself and gain understanding from others, not impatience. But again, I look normal…so how can anything be wrong?


Jay Fraga Interview With Mike Carruth of BMX News


On Tuesday, July 23, Mike Carruth of BMX News spoke with Jay Fraga about concussions in sports and why Jay started The Knockout Project. You can download or stream the interview here:–july-23-2013-1

The Fog

By Jay Fraga


Jay, 1982

The fog rolls in without notice. Some days, you wake up and it is there. On others, you are lulled into a false sense of security; you forget that it lurks, waiting to cover you in its confusion, emptiness, and uncertainty.

Yesterday was good. Today, I woke up and the fog was there. Simple tasks became monumental ones. Normal thought process became labored. This weekend, I called my wife on her cell phone when I heard her car start up in the driveway and start to pull out. I was upset and asked her why she didn’t say goodbye to any of us. She said, “Jay, I just gave you a kiss a minute and a half ago and said, “See you later”.” Hearing that and not being able to remember even a sliver of the experience sucked every ounce of air out of the room.

You try to take experiences like that and shove them far away someplace. You try to marginalize them and tell yourself that they don’t matter; that they’ll pass. But, they are scary. They make you wonder. Where you once felt strong and unbeatable, those experiences make you feel weak. I will turn 41 in three months and I’m not quite sure what is happening to me.

Ray Bradbury, “The Foghorn”:

“One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, “We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I’ll make one. I’ll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I’ll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I’ll make a sound that’s so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I’ll make me a sound and an apparatus and they’ll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.”

An Athlete’s Story of Re-ordered Expectations in The Wake of Multiple Concussions

By Kate Parhiala

kateshotIn 2010, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup announced that it would have an event in the United States, at Windham Mountain in New York. This same year was my first as a professional mountain bike racer and I had the opportunity to participate in the four-cross event at this race. Four-cross is a downhill event where four racers at a time go head-to-head down a track with flat and banked turns, jumps, rocks, drops, and whatever obstacle the course builder decides to throw in. In each round the top two racers move on and the third and fourth are eliminated. To determine groups everyone takes a timed seeding run.

containerdropSuccessfully navigating the jump where I ended up having problems later on.

I never got that far. Before the race there is an allotted time during which riders can take practice runs on the course. Everything about this course was huge, especially the jumps. I had been carefully inspecting and attempting the course bit by bit. By my third practice run I attempted to string the whole thing together. As I approached the big step-down jump I was much farther left than where I had been hitting it previously. There were two landings to this jump: I had been aiming for the closer one, same as in the other runs, but was carrying a bit more speed this time around. I ended up landing on the flat area between the close landing and the far one. All that I remember as I began to fall off the back of the bike was thinking “Wow, this is embarrassing.” About an hour later I woke up in an ambulance.


The big crash at Windham. The medics are trying to free my leg. I don’t remember any of this.

There is a considerable chunk of time that I don’t remember. I have been told that I was physically unconscious for about 30 seconds but mentally I was completely blacked out for at least an hour. The medics were asking me questions to check on my cognition. I knew my name and what my bib number was but couldn’t remember signing up for the race or how I had gotten there. Apparently my left foot had not come unclipped from the pedals and my left leg had become pinned between the rear wheel and the seat. The medics had to let the air out of the tire to extract my leg, which they thought was definitely broken. I was carted down the mountain and into ski patrol where they put an IV in and eventually an ambulance came to bring me to the trauma center in Albany, about an hour away. We were almost there when I finally came to, strapped to a backboard and very nauseous.


 My helmet after concussion #2. I should have bought a new one instead of just replacing the visor.

I remember very little of my stay in the emergency department at Albany Medical Center. I think they got me in right away for a brain scan and x-rays. Luckily no bleeding in the brain and only two badly sprained ankles. I don’t believe I was given any instructions on how to care for a concussion after I was discharged because I spent the next few days doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. With two more days booked at the World Cup, my boyfriend (now fiance) and I wanted to stick around and watch the races. I was hobbling around the mountain on my crutches in the bright sunlight with the loud crowds drinking the occasional beer.

jumpThe day after the crash – concussed and sore in front of the jump that took me out.

It took until going to work the Monday after for me to realize what a mess I was. I just remember sitting at my desk staring blankly at my computer not being able to think. It hurt to think. I couldn’t remember a lot of things that I had previously been working on. My speech was a little slurred and it was difficult to come up with words. By mid-day I finally told my boss that I had to go to the doctor. After taking the subway and the bus home I got in my car to drive to the doctor’s office. Very quickly I discovered that I could barely control the car. My reaction time was so delayed that I kept almost crashing every time a car was stopped in front of me. The doctor told me that I needed to take it easy for a while after a bad concussion and should take at least a week off from work. I left my car at my parents’ house so I wouldn’t try to drive it.

It took at least a month or two for me to start recovering from the most acute symptoms. It was such a relief when I could finally concentrate for most of a workday. I still have trouble remembering anything from that general timeframe. In addition, something strange happened with my memory: things got rearranged. Memories from 10 or 15 years ago were suddenly vivid like they had occurred yesterday while more recent events felt like the distant past. I began having extremely vivid dreams as well (more so than usual) and started remembering little things that were long forgotten. These strange memory issues are still affecting me today.

This was not my first concussion, it was my third. My first happened during a BMX race in 2003. I crashed going over the first jump and hit the left side of my head really hard. There was a bright flash of light and an immediate headache. This was described to me as a mild concussion and I did not notice any residual symptoms. My second concussion actually went undiagnosed. I didn’t realize that I had one. In July of 2010 I was at a downhill mountain bike race and crashed during practice. It was one of those crashes where I went over the bars and the first thing to hit the ground was my face because it happened way too fast to get my hands off the bars. My full-face motocross helmet actually dug some rocks out of the dirt as my head plowed through. I hit so hard that I felt like I should have blacked out. I was definitely out of it and a little confused but I chalked it up to being shaken by the crash. I didn’t think this was a concussion because there was no loss of consciousness and no flash of light. In retrospect it definitely was. I just did not feel right for weeks afterwards but I replaced the shattered visor on my helmet and was back in action the next weekend. This was only a little over a month before the big crash at Windham.

Fast-forward to the 2011 season: I ended up suffering a fourth minor concussion over the summer and a fifth in October, both practicing for downhill bike races (even with a new helmet). The cumulative effect of this, in addition to the memory changes that I still deal with, includes mood changes and migraine headaches. I became significantly depressed and anxious after having 4 concussions in 15 months. In addition I started getting migraine headaches so bad that I would throw up (luckily only a few times a month). Still, it was difficult for me to realize how all of this fit together but I finally decided that I needed help when none of it was improving during the 2012 season.

I began seeing a new doctor who referred me for neuro-psych evaluation. Most of the testing done was negative but a brain MRI actually revealed mild atrophy in the temporal and parietal lobes of my brain. It was strongly suggested that I quit anything that put me in significant risk of further head trauma because further injury could be devastating. This especially meant no more downhill and no more BMX. This was very difficult news for me. I had focused my life around these things for quite some time and it was hard to go from thinking about what World Cup races I wanted to enter the next season to selling my downhill bike and letting my sponsorships expire. I really miss that life but I had no other choice.

It’s a very strange feeling to have an injury that I can never recover from. Even though the symptoms are somewhat managed with medications the physical damage is irreparable. Even before the doctors advised that I stop racing downhill I knew that things weren’t quite right. It is always difficult to get back in the saddle after a bad injury because you’re shaken and anxious. But with time one can usually overcome this. Because I’ve injured the very part of me that controls those thoughts and emotions I was never able to recover my confidence in the two years before I finally quit. I was getting faster and developing better technique but becoming more and more scared and anxious. I know that before continuously landing on my head this wasn’t the case but it’s hard to remember what that felt like.

Since the brain scan results I’ve had to dial the excitement back a quite a bit. Being an adrenaline junkie causes my happiness and sanity to be dependent on doing active and exciting things. At this point I’ve tried to create a balance between acceptable risk and not being bored and miserable. I continue to alpine ski and still race (while wearing a great helmet, of course). While there is still risk, I have not suffered a head injury in the 26 years that I have been skiing (and I hope to continue this trend). On the biking side I have been doing more cross country mountain biking and have started racing cyclo-cross. In addition I am becoming more involved in mountain bike coaching. I still do easy jumps and drops but try to stick to a controlled environment and will not ride beyond my ability.

When it comes to mountain biking I firmly believe that fewer injuries of all types would be sustained if people sought professional instruction, specifically on bike handling, rather than the trial and error method. This is part of the reason I have become more involved with coaching. If a rider learns solid fundamental skills before attempting larger obstacles he or she will be able to more safely progress. Many riders, including myself, did not have this opportunity. To paraphrase my friend and fellow coach, former pro Karen Eagan, if you feel lucky that you just landed that drop DO NOT go bigger; Practice it again and again until you are completely comfortable and then you can progress to the next one. Mountain bike instruction has only recently become more widely available and is something that this sport has been severely lacking. Downhill racing can never be made completely safe, and it shouldn’t be (that’s part of the allure), but riders can at least be equipped with the skills to sufficiently tackle any course they are confronted with.

Having this experience has caused a significant change in mindset. I’ve become comfortable with backing down from certain challenges like drops or jumps if I don’t feel completely comfortable. I can always try another day when the conditions are right. Why go for it now? Is it really worth it? Some things I will probably never attempt and now I’m ok with that. I would rather be riding my bike and skiing for many more years than possibly risk it all because I couldn’t tell myself no. As written of world-renowned steep skier Andreas Fransson in a recent issue of Powder Magazine, “He is most proud of the runs he didn’t take, because backing off is harder than dropping in.”

The Loss of Junior Seau, Through The Eyes of a Multiple Concussion Sufferer


By Jay Fraga

We take a number of things for granted.crash11

I used to take my vocabulary for granted.

I used to take my memory for granted.

I used to take getting out of bed in the morning without a scorching headache for granted.

I used to take having my days free from nausea that rivaled the worst sea sickness that you have ever had for granted.

I used to take not having depression brought on by hits to the head for granted.

I would have never imagined a scenario in which I would have prayed for my death to come as quickly as possible – so that I could be delivered from the daily agony that I felt from my multiple concussions. But, I found myself doing just that. That’s unconscionable for a guy who considers himself a fighter- someone who can persevere through any obstacle. It’s unconscionable for a guy who loves his wife and kids with every fabric of his being; a guy who loves life, period. And it should be unconscionable for anyone else, regardless of circumstances.

On May 2nd, 2012, I was on the Mass Pike and driving home with my wife after she had a procedure at one of the Boston-Area hospitals. She was resting comfortably in the passenger seat and I was driving, absent-mindedly listening to Boston sports radio when a breaking news bulletin came over: Junior Seau had been found dead in his home of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. No more information was known.

It felt as if Floyd Mayweather had just punched me as hard as he could in the gut.

As of that day, I was roughly a full year into living with diagnosed post-concussion syndrome. It’s a hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The symptoms reduce you to a barely-functioning subhuman. Life with PCS is literally pure agony and thoughts of suicide are fairly common for people who suffer from it.

As I digested the news, I knew with every fabric of my being that Seau finally succumbed to the agony of living with too many head injuries. I was positive. I reached over to my sleeping wife, gently squeezed her arm, and said, “Junior Seau killed himself”. She stirred and said, “What?” I repeated it, and then said, “Damn it, it’s got to be the concussions. Just wait- if we hear that he didn’t shoot himself in the head, that’s all I need to know.”

Ten minutes later, the next bulletin came over with more information, and this time, mentioned that Junior had shot himself in the chest.

I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears.

I mourned for the man; a man that I had grown to dislike when he played for the San Diego Chargers. I was a Patriots fan, and their natural rivalry with the Chargers often left me cursing as Seau would break through the line time and time again and deposit our quarterbacks on their asses. I respected him as a warrior, however, and I marveled at his toughness. He was unstoppable. Of course, I just about danced a jig when the Patriots signed him, and all of his previous transgressions were quickly forgotten by me in short order. I mourned for all three variants of the man that I was familiar with. And, I began to mourn for myself. What did this mean for me? As someone who suffered from multiple concussions and undoubtedly suffered daily misery from their effects, would this be my fate?

My thoughts raged as I sat on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, cried, and cars passed me at 85 miles per hour.

This morning, one of my friends notified me immediately that researchers affiliated with the National Institute of Health found CTE in Junior’s brain tissue. CTE can only be found post-mortem, and it is indicative of damage brought on from too many hits to the head. It’s a final monument to the dangers of ignoring concussions.

I don’t know how to focus the correct message on dealing with concussions appropriately, but I do know that I am going to double down on the volume of my participation.

Rest in Peace, #55.

Jay Fraga