Taylor Twellman went two straight years without having a dream. When he was able to sleep at night, the dreams would never come.
During that time, he was living a nightmare.
“They were the worst days of my life. There were periods of anxiety that are hard to explain,” Twellman said. “You just don’t feel good.”
Twellman can pinpoint the start of the nightmare during the 21st minute of the New England Revolution’s match with the LA Galaxy when he headed in one of his 101 career MLS goals, only to be floored by Steve Cronin, the LA goalkeeper who sprung to punch away the cross only to catch Twellman instead and give him his fifth concussion in his 10 seasons as a professional.
He would play 10 matches after that concussion, but was never able to shake the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome that would eventually force the 2005 MLS MVP to retire at just 30 years old.
What he has done since is just as admirable as the 101 goals he scored in 174 career MLS matches while helping the Revs to three consecutive MLS Cup finals.
He has started a foundation – ThinkTaylor.org – and made it a personal goal to educate as many people as possible about the danger of concussions.
“I needed to help myself by helping others,” said Twellman, now an analyst for ESPN. “I figured if I can’t help myself, I can help others and be a voice for the injury.”
That goal will take him to Seattle for a viewing of “Head Games” on Friday at Golazo headquarters on Capitol Hill. The film is about the effects of head trauma and concussions in sports and is being shown as part of Washington Youth Soccer’s commitment to the youth concussion initiative.
Another part of that initiative was passing the Zackery Lystedt Law in 2009, directly affecting youth sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
“We’ve increased the awareness to a very high standard. 130,000 kids play soccer with Washington Youth Soccer and that translates to a lot of parents that are at least somewhat informed about the concussion laws,” said Doug Andreassen, president of Washington Youth Soccer. “These kids don’t have a chance unless the parents become educated.”
To help encourage education, Washington Youth Soccer requires a parent of each youth athlete to sign consent forms acknowledging the risk of head injuries and that they must receive medical clearance prior to returning to play. Most importantly, though, they implemented a policy of removing players from the field if they are suspected of sustaining a concussion – the rule of “when in doubt, sit them out.”
That, according to Twellman, is an important step in alleviating the symptoms and to keep players from further aggravating the injury.
“If you fool around with it, you’re really taking into question your life,” said Twellman, noting that in his two-year nightmare – and in many cases to this day – he couldn’t run, read books, watch television, drive a car or even sit in the sun for extended periods of time without having painful migraines.
Even today Twellman can’t workout, but has conquered many of the troublesome symptoms by adjusting his diet to include more Omega-3s. He even travels nearly every week with ESPN for their soccer broadcasts and now regularly plays golf.
On the broadcasts, he is outspoken about the effects of concussions, even though he frequently gets hassled through social media.
“I’m trying to avoid any athlete going through what I go through these days,” he said. “If I’m going to be the annoying guy about it, fair enough. But if that helps one person, then it’s worth the fight.”
In addition to the private screening on Friday, “Head Games” will also be shown at the Seattle International Film Festival on November 9.
For more information about Twellman’s foundation, visit www.ThinkTaylor.org.
For more information about the film, visit http://headgamesthefilm.com/.