Safe Kids 2020 – Former Dewitt HS and CMU quarterback shares about his battle with concussions

Safe Kids 2020

DEWITT, Mich. (WLNS)– Jake Johnson loves football, and has been playing since second grade.

He’s a gifted athlete, and started as the varsity quarterback for Dewitt High School for three years.

“The teammates and the Friday night lights, honestly one of the best memories of my life so far,” said Johnson.

With the lights and touchdown, also came the hard hits. Jake got hit hard his senior year playing against Haslett High School.

“As soon as I turned to the right to throw the ball i got hit right underneath my chin, and that was the hardest I’ve ever been hit by far, i had no idea what was going on,” said Johnson. “I didn’t want to miss a snap, let along miss a game so i just ‘ yeah i’m fine, i’m fine,” he added.

But he wasn’t fine, and he got hit again.

“I just loss consciousness for a little bit, and i remember my trainer coming out and asking me what’s wrong, and i couldn’t talk and my mouth was moving and just no words were coming out,” said Johnson.

That didn’t stop Jake from getting a full-ride scholarship to Central Michigan University for football. He says he was a red-shirt freshman year, but during his first game sophomore year, he only took one hit.

“I just took one routine tackle and whip lashed my head a little bit but that was the last play of football I’ve ever played,” said Johnson.

He says he went up north and knew he was concussed. He came back to CMU and was told he could never play again.

“Basically i was forced to sign a piece of paper that said Jake Johnson, you can never play football at Central Michigan again,” said Johson.

“How did you feel when you were told that you could never play again?” said 6 News reporter, Kalie Marantette. “It was the worst day of my life by far i still remember him telling me that with his parents and stuff that was my dream ever since i was a little kid and i finally got there and realized i can do this and i’m going to do this and just when things seemed like they were going really well, it was ripped out from underneath me and my life did a complete 180,” Johnson answered.

Jake was diagnosed with three concussions during his entire football career, but says he probably had more.

His concussions eventually started to affect his schooling.

“I couldn’t even get through an hour sometimes and i’d just go home and go to sleep in a dark room because it was just too much for me, and to try to focus and read, it just triggered my really bad migraines all the time,” said Johnson.

Dr. David Kaufman is a professor and chair for neurology and ophthalmology at Michigan State University. He says the most common way to get a concussion is actually in a car accident. After that, it’s contact sports like ice hockey, soccer and football.

“I think with sports concussions the primary symptoms is headache, after that would be memory disturbances or cognitive decline the other common complaints is that the student athlete may complain of everything being slowed down,” said Kaufman.

While Jake was unconscious for one of his concussion, Dr. Kaufman says it’s uncommon.

“The biggest misconception is that you have to be unconscious to get a concussion, only 9 percent of concussions are unconscious, 91 percent of people are still awake,” said Kaufman.

Jake says once you get one concussion, you’re more susceptible to get another. His advice to young athletes? Listen to your body.

“It’s just something that you can play through, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’ll catch up with you in the long run, it’s not just something you can tough it out and get through when it’s your brain,” said Johnson.

Concussions can happen off the field too. From falling off a bike or simply just hitting your hard too hard. If you are concerned about a possible concussion, you can use what’s called the ‘SCAT5’.

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