Posted on March 1, 2013 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 15 of 36 in the series Zachary

No Athletics after TBI: Zach Part Fifteen

I talked to Zach aabout the changes after brain injury that he experienced.  On of the biggest changes after brain injury was no athletics after TBI.

What were the changes after brain injury once football starts again with no athletics after TBI?

I was voted cap, well one of the captains of the football team.

So was it after your junior season?

Yes. So I was still captain of the football team. So I went to every practice, every game but I couldn’t play.  They said with the head injury I just couldn’t do it.  I mean physically I wasn’t ready to play, but, I actually ended up being able to run out on the field during the last game of the year.

So let’s, let’s focus first on the physical part of that going back to being the high school student.  Physical therapy starts with the base, we have to get this person out of a wheelchair and who hasn’t moved his arms for a month to use his muscles, to learn walk again meant no athletics after TBI. 


Did they continue to actually start you back to being an athlete or were there no athletics after TBI and you have to transition somewhere else to do that?

Well I left Spaulding and I went to Burbank and they did a little more, to where I wasn’t just learning to walk anymore, I was learning how to walk in like certain areas.  The physical therapist, gave me a belt and he connected a rope on to it and he had me walk and he held the rope.  He had me walk outside on these hills that were like sandy and stuff and help me, hold my balance, so I’d adjust.  And I started actually lifting with him a little bit.

And this would have been what late summer?

Yeah. And I would always go to the gym with my dad and we would lift and get things like that. I just had to make sure I didn’t lift anything over my head because, I didn’t want (the weight) to fall.

Football practice starts middle of August?


What are you doing while the team’s practicing since there was no athletics after TBI?

Just being a goon actually.  Just making people laugh.  I love making people laugh and that was kind of my role.  I would lead the team in stretching.  Actually, I would try to run the lap with them.  I would run it and then I go off the side,  (waving them on) you know, I’m done, I can’t.

How far did you get?

I actually got pretty far, but that is how I would build myself up.  The further I go, I’d have to stop a minute. And then I’d go a little further the next time.  But, we would do stretching and then all of the team would run behind us and get in line so for calisthenics.  I would just run sprints back and forth, when the team does their drills, like high knees and stuff. I couldn’t do that at the time but I could run sprints.

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How long did it take you to feel like you were actually able to start to move and, and to run and, and to be at least bit like an average high school kid instead of no athletics after TBI?

That didn’t, that’s, that never happened. Because everything I could do before, I was up here, I could do so much stuff and have so much fun. Now I can only like reach down here. I always wanted more so I pushed myself to get more and more and more and then I’m like once I get that, then I can start having fun and (but) and I just (never got there.)

Talk to me about how it feels to go from being an extraordinary athlete to no athletics after TBI and to be pushing yourself and pushing yourself and those same character traits that made you exceptional, you keep running into the wall when you try to do these things physically.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world.

Can you give me a specific instant when it sort of something bad happened or some, some frustration that came from that?

Every day was frustration for me because like I used to do like box jumps. (Before) I’d hold 75 pound dumbbells and I’d jump and get on top of a box. I couldn’t, couldn’t, I couldn’t do that without weights.  I had to make sure I landed on the thing because I didn’t know where my left leg’s going to go, is it going to go off to the side?

And training and things like that, I used to love training.  I used to love going to the gym and get my sweat on.  Just being like all right, I know like what I’m doing is helping, is going towards, you know, like baseball, football whatever it was, and I can do those things.

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Where were you going for rehab when you started your senior year?

I left Burbank and now I’m at Ramsey Rehab.

Is there a difference between them or is it just closer?

Ramsey Rehab is more like athletics.  I mean, a lot of people that don’t play sports go there but they do a lot of work with athletics and so.

Now you’re just getting over your broken foot. Are you able to walk without crutches when you start class?

I didn’t use crutches when I was – because I couldn’t figure that, I couldn’t figure out how to use crutches, with the brain injury. I just was like I just learned how to walk, I have no idea how to use these.

Then what did you do, just limp? Hop for awhile?

Yeah, I mean, yeah. I wonder if that’s why I still limp because when I walk everyone’s like “Oh you got swag. Oh my God, look at the way you walk.”  And I was just like “This is the way I walk, you know, I’m not trying to do anything.”

Then you should have just seen me before I got hurt.

Yeah.  Exactly.


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Next in Part Sixteen

Lighter Class Load Eased Transition After TBI

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447