Dancer's concussion gives parents new warning signs




Posted on August 22, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 22 at 10:39 PM

Even if your child doesn't wear a helmet, parents of all athletes need to pay attention to head injuries.

Sixteen-year-old dancer Macie Guthrie is still recovering from a concussion she suffered in January, and her mother wishes she had seen the symptoms sooner.

Macie was showing her friends her latest dance routine when she went for a big sidekick. "And my left leg came right up with it, and I fell five feet nine inches... just whack!” Macie recalled.

She said everything felt dark for two weeks, but she continued to dance and put on her best smile for family and friends.

"And when my thoughts would come out, people would look at me like, 'She's crazy. What did she just say?'"

Macie never revealed all of her symptoms to her mom, Kathleen Gurthrie.

Then a second fall, two weeks later, stilted Macie's speech and threw off her balance.

The teen's mom took her to Cook Children's Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with a severe concussion.

"The second fall, she was so bad, the doctors said, 'We don't know if she'll get back to where she was,'" Kathleen said. "And you don't want to be a parent hearing that."

Kathleen Guthrie wants other parents to see what she missed in Macie.

The Centers for Disease Control has resources for parents, coaches and physicians on its Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports website.

It says a child with a concussion might exhibit these symptoms:

  • complain of nausea or headaches
  • forget simple instructions
  • show changes in personality
  • alter sleep patterns
  • act clumsy

Macie had at least some of those symptoms after the first fall. Doctors say by dancing for another two weeks, her brain never fully recovered.

Cam Brandt leads Cook Children’s Emergency Education department. She works with teachers and parents to recognize early signs of brain trauma.

The first step is to notice any change in behavior immediately after the incident, then start the recovery.

"They need to be resting," Brandt said. "No texting. No TV. Anything that makes them have worse symptoms, makes their headache worse, makes their balance worse — they need to not be doing that."

After seven months of regimented therapy, Macie still isn't cleared to dance. She takes medicine and vitamins to help her brain heal, and is under strict orders to not over-exert herself.

Any deviation from doctors’ orders could mean another setback.

Macie's body is agile, and her toes on point, but her mind fights through relapses. She questions the process and why it’s taking so long to recover.

"Why won't you let me run? Why won't let me do what I was born to do?" Macie asked.

She's stretching for new limits every day at a sports rehabilitation center in Hurst. She prays she'll dance again and fly in the spotlight.