Senior returns to soccer team after multiple concussions

November 17, 2017 — by Jayne Zhou and Elaine Fan

When the doctors confirmed that she’d been concussed for the second time, nearly one and a half years after her first severe concussion, Daphne Liu was forced to make several sacrifices.

At first, they were just academic: She dropped Algebra II Honors due to her shortened attention span that resulted from her concussion.

Then, gradually, she realized that she couldn’t continue to play soccer and hope for a smooth recovery, so she was forced to sit out for an entire season of varsity girls’ soccer.

Now, as the girls’ soccer season rolls into place, the senior is back on the field as a forward or center midfielder.

Liu suffered her first concussion in March 2015 when she was knocked backwards in a club tournament during her freshman year. Despite the dizziness, she continued to play, heading the ball and falling several more times throughout the game, only exacerbating the problem.

In July 2016, Liu received her second concussion after a dropkick from an opposing goalkeeper contacted with her head.  With the looming risk of permanent neurologic disability, Liu sat out almost the entire season of her junior year.

She said the biggest impact on her daily life has been having trouble focusing and becoming more sensitive and emotional after her concussion. Although she sometimes still cannot focus for more than 30 minutes, Liu has seen gradual improvement in her condition since freshman year, when she sometimes had trouble concentrating for only five to 10 minutes.

“I’ve had these symptoms for a long time and the most important thing for me is learning how to adjust to the challenges,” Liu said. “Of course, I’m not happy that school is harder for me and I wasn’t able to take as many AP courses, but the most important thing is just knowing your limits and not letting others define who you are.”

Despite the barrier, Liu still attended almost every practice and game, wanting to be a part of the team as much as she could.

“She was really good at lifting people up and always being positive,” senior outside forward Allison Borch said. “She came to every practice and she helped set up drills, take them apart, talk with our coach. She was on the team; she just couldn’t play.”

In turn, Liu appreciates her teammates’ attitude toward her. She is grateful to have such caring people around her, she said.

Naturally, her eventual decision to return to the team prompted concern from her parents, who were uneasy about Liu’s health.

“They were scared, of course,” Liu said. “But they knew that soccer made me less stressed. They just don’t want me to get hurt.”

Gaining considerable free time when the team was not in session, Liu said she “felt really lost without soccer” but took the opportunity to make time for other interests such as volunteering. She helped underserved middle schoolers learn social and emotional skills to go through high school at the Boys and Girls Club and at Palo Alto Housing Corporation.

Liu is also the top leader in the SHSTV program, which she first experienced as a part of the newspaper staff in her sophomore year. She switched to the program because “it was fun to work hard,” and this year became editor in chief of the staff. According to Liu, the program has helped her to develop an identity, and she feels more confident because of her experience.

“Daphne ranks as one of the best students I have ever worked with in my career,” teacher Joel Tarbox said. “She is an effective leader, mentor and collaborator. The vast majority of success and improvements at SHSTV this year are a direct result of Daphne’s efforts.”

Having waited so long to play, Liu has trained on her own before the season with drills and conditioning in an effort to keep up with her teammates. Though she needs to work on a rusty skills, she hopes to be up to game speed soon.

“I would tell anyone else [with a concussion] a lot of things, but the main thing is that it’s OK to go at your own pace,” Liu said. “You are in control, and as cheesy as it sounds, you have to believe in yourself.”


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