For Magdalena Brodka, four blows to her head changed her life.
The first, during a high school soccer game her senior year in 2013, happened when she went up for a ball and collided with another player. The next two happened during college play. The fourth at her job at a local soccer center, where she was hit by a ball as she stood by the sideline.
“It literally felt like someone was squeezing my brain,” said Brodka, an East Rutherford native. “By the second time, I just knew it was a concussion.”
Since her injuries, the avid soccer player has become sensitive to light, which forces her to wear sunglasses often. She suffers headaches — so much so that she got a Daith piercing, an alternative treatment that she believes helped her migraines lessen. She is also convinced she developed a stutter as a result of her injuries.
But one thing hasn’t changed: Brodka, 22, still plays soccer as often as she can.
Traumatic brain injuries like concussions, long associated with sports like American football or boxing, are often overlooked in the “beautiful game.” However, recent studies have shown concussions are a growing concern in youth sports, especially among girls. A 2017 study by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons found that high school girls have a significantly higher concussion rate than boys, with female soccer players suffering the most concussions — even compared to football players.