Stetson beach player Alexa Richardson deals with impact of concussions

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Alexa Richardson of Stetson/Steve Simoneau, Stetson Athletics photo

Alexa Richardson smiled.

“It’s interesting, because it isn’t a contact sport,” the Stetson University beach volleyball player said.

“You’d think it wouldn’t be that big of an issue. But it definitely is.”

Certainly in Richardson’s case, whose concussion experience is a little bit different.

The product of Austin, Texas, was 16 when she got her first concussion.

“The first one was actually technically two. It was a double-impact kind of scenario,” Richardson said.

“It was while I was in high school, playing club. My coach was hitting off of a box and a ball went through my hands and hit me in the face more than once that practice.

“At the time I was taking Advil for an elbow injury and that was masking some of my headache symptoms. So I was not aware I had a concussion.”

So she never stopped practicing or playing.

Alexa Richardson

“Then we had a big tournament and I was a libero, diving all over the place, and was hitting the floor again and again, and that definitely made it worse.”

Richardson, who has trained with the USA Volleyball Beach High Performance program, said it manifested itself while playing beach volleyball.

“I went up for a big swing, hit the ball really hard, and had a little bit of whiplash. I went back to serve and blacked out.”

Richardson said she remembers having a lot of pressure in the back of her head before dropping to the sand.

“I was only out for a couple of seconds, but after that I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You definitely have a concussion,’ and we traced it back and saw that it was from multiple impacts. That was the first one.”

Richardson, who just turned 22 and will be a senior at Stetson, was an outside hitter at Austin Waldorf School and also competed in basketball and track. But she went to Stetson, in DeLand, Fla., to strictly play beach.

Early in practice her first year there, in the fall of 2015, she got another concussion.

“I dove for a ball, had some whiplash and gave me another concussion.”

Richardson said she’s very careful, “but it does make me nervous when I get hit in the head again, because I know there are so many concussions before you’re not able to play again. It definitely makes me nervous and I’ve noticed that with each one it has impacted my ability to study. I’ve had to learn new ways to study. It’s something you have to learn from.”

What’s more, she said some of her Stetson beach teammates have had more than one concussion, something not lost on Stetson coach Kristina Hernandez, who is starting her sixth season at the school.

“Two ways. The one that happens the most is when our kids are diving on the line, going for a really hard line ball, and it’s almost like whiplash,” Hernandez said. “Their head just goes back and forth.”

She shook her head.

“Yes, we’ve had concussions at Stetson,” Hernandez said.

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