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“Career-ending” is just the beginning

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How a major injury changed an athlete’s outlook on life, sport and health.

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When I sustained three concussions in a span of 15 months between August 2014 and November 2015, little did I know it would change the trajectory of my life. 

I was no stranger to concussions. 

As a competitive ice and ball hockey player, I had already sustained at least 5 prior documented concussions before this string of three. 

But this time, something was different. 

I didn’t fully recover. 

I spent the next year and a half seeing different specialists, but to this day, I still deal with a few lingering symptoms. 

I’ve never been back on the ice since. 

Just a few months before sustaining that last concussion, I became a Personal Trainer Specialist and Certified Holistic Nutritionist. 

I was working in a gym at the time. 

I quickly realized that type of work environment was not going to support my concussion rehabilitation. 

Bright lights, loud music and a lot of stimulation isn’t exactly the treatment prescription for post-concussion syndrome. 

When I was too physically ill with symptoms, I couldn’t take time off work unless I found another trainer to cover my shift. It also meant no pay. 

I needed an exit plan. 

I knew I always wanted to be self-employed with my own company, but it was a long-term goal without much of a plan in place. 

Thanks to post-concussion syndrome, the plan was expedited. 

By January (2 months after the concussion), I had resigned from the gym and officially started my business. 

I set myself up online so that I could honour my recovery and work when I was physically able to. 

This allowed me to set my own schedule, get the 9-10 hours of sleep I needed to promote recovery and take as many breaks as necessary to protect my brain and energy. 

For the first time in my life, I was in tune with my body and listening to the signs it was giving me. 

At first, it was really frustrating. I could work maybe 5-10 hours a week before I had to shut it down. 

I kept comparing myself to my peers and how many hours a week they were dedicating to starting and growing their businesses and how much farther ahead of me they were getting. 

I constantly felt this pressure to start my day at the crack of dawn because everywhere you look online, entrepreneurs talk about how you waste your day if you sleep in. 

But I knew their schedules didn’t work for ME. 

As an athlete, I had been conditioned to “go hard or go home” and had the mentality of “no pain, no gain”. 

Playing through injuries got me really far, didn’t it? 

Once I was given the green light to start training again, I had a completely new outlook. 

When I recognized the post-concussion syndrome symptoms flaring up, I knew it was time for more rest. 

I stopped pushing through the fatigue or the pain. 

I stopped feeling guilt over taking rest days. 

I stopped comparing my journey to other athletes’ journeys. 

Nearly 5 years later, I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. 

I am a competitive obstacle course race athlete with a successful online sports nutrition coaching practice. 

I continue to get 8-9 hours of sleep at night, not wake up at the crack of dawn, and take breaks from my work for hours at a time when my brain tells me it’s had enough. 

I continue to take an extra rest day or scale back my training sessions if I don’t feel well-rested and physically ready to not only perform, but recover properly from that session. 

Without suffering from post-concussion syndrome, I would not be the business owner and obstacle course race athlete that I am today. 

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Author: Melissa Boufounos is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of MB Performance Nutrition. She helps competitive athletes simplify their fuelling plans with flexible eating strategies so they can maximize their performance potential without dieting or giving up their favourite foods.


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