My Story: When Concussions Became Personal

Neurologist Dr. Harry Kerasidis shares the inspiration behind XLNTbrain from an excerpt in his new book “Concussionology:”

It was late October, my freshman year of college, at George Washington University and I was home for my local high school’s Homecoming weekend. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, not that I remember much more than that.

A bunch of guys from my neighborhood decided to get together for a friendly game of tackle football—without pads or helmets—at the field of the elementary school nearby. I drove my car, an aging Mercury Capri, whose valves had recently gone bad, requiring an overhaul earlier in the week. I arrived, and we lined up five-on-five that afternoon, with girlfriends and friends sitting on a small hill at one end of the field like bleachers in a stadium.

My team kicked off. I raced down the field, carrying the inertia of a 6’1,” 170-pound young man running at full speed to stop the receiver, Hank, a tall lanky guy. He tried to evade my tackle unsuccessfully. I led with my head colliding with his bony hip. That's where my memory for the events that followed become sketchy.

My best friend, and girl-next-door, Ellen filled in the blanks for me. Apparently, I didn't get up and huddle after the play as I normally would. Instead, I sat on the field, rubbing my head on both sides with my hands in a twisting motion. My buddies had not noticed at first, because Hank was howling and running around yelling, "Ouch! My hip!" When they noticed me, my friends, Johnny and Andy came over to see if I was okay. I couldn't really tell them, all I could do was just look at them. So Johnny suggested that I sit the next play out. I went up to the hill and sat by Ellen.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

"Yeah, I think I hit my head. I'm just going to sit the next play out," I said.

Questions That Led to More Questions

"What was the play that I got hit on?" I asked. She told me that it was the kickoff play and what happened.

"Okay, I guess I will just sit out this next play.” We sat and watched as the game continued. A few minutes later, I asked her what happened to me.

"What was the play that I got hit on?" And she described it all over again.

"Oh," I said, not talking much, just sitting and watching. A few more minutes went by and I asked her again, "What was the play that I got hit on?"

At this point, Ellen was getting concerned. She called Andy over, telling him, "Harry is confused."

Andy started asking me questions. "Do you remember getting your car fixed earlier this week?" I stared blankly back at him.

"No, I haven't fixed it yet, I have to save up some money." He and Ellen did not know what to do with such a response since I was so happy when I finally got my car back from the shop.

"Harry, you picked your car up last Wednesday. Look you drove it here!" Ellen said.

I looked up at the parking lot and saw my car there. "No, I'm sure it's not fixed yet," I said, not even processing the fact that I wouldn't have driven it if it had not been repaired.

After arguing the matter and my personal finances with them for a few minutes, I walked up the hill, popped the hood, and started revving the engine. I was so impaired that I could not determine that, in fact, it was running just fine, without the nasty noises an engine with bad valves makes.

Andy and Ellen followed me up. "See? It's running great!" Andy said.

"I can't tell," I said resolutely.

We went back and sat down on the grass. "Do you remember taking Shelley to the homecoming dance last night?" they asked.

"No, why would I do that?" I replied.

The following series of questions profoundly influenced me and compelled me to study the brain and ultimately become a neurologist. Later, I learned that I had classic signs of injury to the temporal lobes. The temporal lobes support short-term memory. I was exhibiting textbook signs of acute concussion injury including retrograde amnesia (loss of memory for events that happened before the injury, like taking Shelley to the homecoming dance) and anterograde amnesia (loss of memory for events that took place after the injury, like being in the CT scanner). Although less pronounced, I also experienced concussion-related headaches and fatigue.

The complete chapter is available in "Concussionology: Redefining Sports Concussion Management" by Harry Kerasidis, MD.

Media Contact: David Jahr, APR, (949) 874-2667,