Concussions devastate rugby player, family

Ryan Brennan

Ryan Brennan

For Colleen Brennan and her son Ryan, the film “Concussion” may prove a reprise in different guise of their own troubling experiences.

Brennan, Nevada Senate journal clerk during the Legislature, said her son Ryan was a star player with the St. Bonaventure University rugby team when he was hurt in 2012 and again in 2013.

“It was absolutely devastating,” she said Wednesday of the intervening years. “It was devastating for my entire family.”

She said eventually treatment that helped was found at a brain center in Atlanta and her son is still recovering in Buffalo, N.Y., where he is with his father.

She said she left Buffalo, N.Y., which is about 50 miles from St. Bonaventure, to come to Nevada for the journal clerk job last January and to live near two of her other children. She lived in Carson City until moving recently to south Reno. She said Ryan’s problems appeared to begin with a brain injuring during a rugby match.

“He got kicked in the head,” she said. “The brain stem is there.” She said he had other injuries later, kept getting sick, had vision problems and slept a lot. But he kept playing because tests, including CAT Scans and MRIs, didn’t turn up problems. Ryan was playing with another team in south Buffalo in August, 2013, when two more hits propelled him into what’s called “post-concussion syndrome,” she said.

“He became disabled the day after the national news hit about the NFL,” she said, referring to concussions in the National Football League.

She said Ryan, now 23, had been playing rugby since high school and during that time sustained multiple hits both to the head and other parts of his body.

Along with dropping grades, weight and vision losses, she said, came other problems such as paralysis of his right arm, buzzing noises in each ear, disorientation and even tunnel vision.

Eventually Ryan was treated by Dr. Ted Carrick at the Carrick Brain Centers in Atlanta, now called Cerebrum Health Centers, which in 2014 put him on a path to partial recovery, according to his mother.

She said it helped without surgery and with different techniques than had been used in previous treatments.

“He’s technically disabled” still, she said, but his partial recovery has him working on performing arts and he’s expected to visit her in Northern Nevada in January.

Brennan said she hopes her son doesn’t suffer from the same Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), an asymptomatic brain disease, that is depicted in the film “Concussion” being released Friday.

She said she has never been told he had CTE, but it concerns her.

“That was never discussed with me by any of the doctors,” she said. “But from what I’m reading, I’m just hoping for the best.”

The new film depicts NFL players who suffered problems later in life after multiple concussions during their playing days, and the battle by a physician to get word out about CTE.

An Associated Press article about Will Smith’s film, based on the research and the battle by Dr. Bennet Omalu to get word out on CTE, explained that CTE had been researched earlier in prizefighters and had been identified in soccer and rugby players.

Brennan works in real estate as well as journal clerking for the 78th Legislature and during the recent special session.

She said she wants to get word out on how to deal with concussion problems. Brennan said she’s considering eventually forming a foundation for that purpose.

Families of injured youths should get second, third and fourth opinions, she said. She also cautioned she wasn’t warned after CAT Scans and MRI tests about Ryan not continuing to compete, nor was she told then about the “constellation of symptoms.”

Brennan, who said she’s director of client relations with Roesch Luxury Group of Sierra Sotheby International Realty, was a real estate broker in Buffalo and is about ready to take her licensing exam in Nevada. She also intends, howeve, to continue as journal clerk during legislative sessions, she said.

A former Buffalo Bills cheerleader and later a broadcaster, she knows about both the game depicted in Smith’s film and the head trauma troubles it is dramatizing.

She calls it sad to hear about the suffering of NFL players with CTE who didn’t know what can be done.


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