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Recently, I have made what was likely the hardest decision I’ve yet to make in my life. This week, I informed my teammates and my coaches that I will not be returning to play with the team after the Christmas break.

Although this was an incredibly difficult decision to make, it was not done without good reason. In November 2012, my first year playing at Carleton, I had a bad fall into the boards during a game. Ever since, I have been dealing with concussion and post-concussion symptoms.

It may seem a bit dramatic to say that that one particular fall has changed my life, but I really believe that it has. For more than two years now I have been dealing with sometimes daily symptoms of headaches, dizziness, vertigo, motion-sickness, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and depression-like symptoms. I’ve seen vestibular doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, craniosacral doctors and my normal doctor on a regular basis. I’ve been treated for an inner-ear imbalance, concussion and post-concussion, and compacted C1 and C2 vertebrae. To say that I’ve been to hell and back with this concussion would be an understatement.

With that being said, it’s easy to understand why continuing to play hockey after the concussion was difficult. Since the initial concussion I have had various post-concussion “relapses” where it’s hard to identify if I’ve been concussed again or if it’s simply post-concussion symptoms acting up. Any little knock to the head for me has been a setback. I’ve been told that my neck simply isn’t stable enough to brace for contact to the head.

This is why I have decided to hang up my skates. Dealing with concussion and post-concussion symptoms on a regular basis can really start to mess up aspects of your life other than just hockey. With trying to get into law school and needing to keep my marks up, continuously missing classes and assignments because of concussions is a huge problem. I’m hoping that a break from hockey, whether it be temporary or permanent, will help to really settle out my symptoms and get everything back to normal in my life outside of hockey.

It’s not easy giving up on something that I have dedicated my life to since I was five years old. Hockey has been the central focus for me for so long, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what it will be like without it. But, I really believe that if the ‘risk’ is so greatly outweighing the ‘reward’, as it is in my case, it’s time to take a step back.

In the bigger picture of things, the rest of my life is more important than the next year of hockey. I have dreams and aspirations outside of hockey that I am not willing to jeopardize just yet. There is more to me than my ability to play hockey and this is my chance to show the world what else I can do.

Here’s to 16 years well spent.

Julianne

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