The Importance of Mental Health On and Off the Field
Taking care of your mental health is often placed on the back burner, especially when the demands of being a student-athlete pull you in every direction possible. When an injury caused student-athlete Kelly Lyons to be sidelined for her sophomore lacrosse season, she learned the importance of her mental health.
The summer before her freshman year, Lyons passed out, falling headfirst onto the concrete. A scan of her brain determined nerve damage to facial nerves. The nerves were supposed to heal properly, so there was no thought of permanent damage. But, after returning from winter break in January 2020, Lyons and her teammates were performing their run test when Lyons dropped to the ground and began to have a seizure.
Following the seizure, Lyons was sidelined until doctors could determine the cause and prevention. The first seizure led doctors to scan Lyons’ brain again, where they discovered the nerves in her forehead had “healed” by crossing over one another, rather than next to one another. This incorrect healing led to the facial nerves sometimes misfiring to the brain, causing the seizure.
“The absence of lacrosse was really tough on my mental health to start with. I have always played sports with very minor injuries that never kept me out too long,” Lyons said.
But this injury was different. Lyons was not allowed back on the field until a seizure-prevention method was found.
“My sophomore season was over and I was not even able to play one game of it,” said Lyons.
During Lyons’ time on the sideline, she began to learn that life did not revolve around lacrosse, and there was so much more to life outside sport. This is something she feels college athletes can easily forget at times.
Not having the demands of being a full time student-athlete allowed Lyons to get a job and meet new people whom she would have never met. She also began to appreciate the little things in life, like being able to get up each morning and take a walk, something that started out as being very difficult.
Lyons was still able to stay connected to her teammates by going to games and practices when she felt healthy enough. The team continued to check on her during the time her doctors were trying to figure out what was going on.
A solution to preventing a seizure was found in June 2021, and Lyons was cleared to play, something that came as a surprise.
“I realized this was my chance to go harder and that God still had a plan for me with lacrosse.” It was determined that Lyons’ seizures occurred when her heart rate got above a certain point, her body shut down and her nerves misfired.
“Even though my sophomore season had been taken, my love for lacrosse was still there and I knew that seizure episodes were not going to stop me,” Lyons said. “I learned how important mental health is, especially in athletes. Taking time to focus on positive mental health is really important.”
Lyons is excited for the upcoming season because she is healthy again and able to play. She has also implemented tactics to prevent a seizure from occurring during a practice or game. During practice, Lyons shares her heart rate with athletic trainers, and a heart rate monitor allows them to ensure her heart rate stays below the “safe” limit that has been set for her.
By Madison Bakatsias