Back in the Game

Alexis Howell playing soccer
Photo Courtesy: Aubrey Ann Parker.

Alexis Howell heads to Central Michigan University this fall with a goal of becoming a physician assistant who specializes in work with military veterans.

A soccer player since she could walk, the Benzie Central graduate understands what it is like to be on the receiving end of therapy. She spent much of her senior soccer season on the sidelines due to a concussion.

“I got hit in the base of my head and fell forward to the ground. I can’t remember most of it,” she said. “I finished the half, even though I know I shouldn’t have. I was dizzy and couldn’t hear anything.”

Because she had suffered a previous concussion while skiing, Alexis initially feared getting checked out by the team’s trainer, Arthur Adkins. Her soccer coach insisted Adkins, a certified athletic trainer at Munson Healthcare Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, check her. Sideline testing indicated that she likely sustained a concussion, which was later confirmed with a physician diagnosis. 

“For a few weeks I was really bad, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t go to school. Then I started PT,” she said. “We had to start slow.”

Adkins explained to her the five-stage concussion protocol called CRANIUM (Concussion Recognition and Neurological Intervention, United Management) that ensures student athletes recover fully from head trauma before returning to competition.

“This protocol provides us with really strong evidence-based information. It tests the brain’s ability to tolerate increased heart rate, movement, intensity, and then sport-specific activity safely,” he said.

While receiving therapy with Paul Oliver rehabilitation therapists Lori Darling and Adrienne Jones, Alexis came to realize the significance of a concussion, its impact on her brain, and the importance of allowing the brain to heal completely. Under the protocol, students go through complete brain rest, then light exercises, and then slowly work back into their sport in the last three stages.

“My parents grew up in the age where concussions weren’t a big deal, you get hit in the head and then go back out there,” she said. “I had to learn what heart rate I could work up to and still be safe. A lot of people don’t take it as seriously as they should. You can play soccer without your pinky, but you can’t play without your brain.”

Alexis returned to her sport just as the team played its final district competition game.“That was the highlight of the season,” she said. At Central Michigan she intends to pursue other athletic opportunities, possibly lacrosse, as she majors in psychology and minors in American Sign Language.

“I have a brother who was in the Navy and I’d love to work with veterans,” she said. “Some of his friends were injured badly and I want to support them and others.”

In addition to helping area athletes recover from concussions, Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital also offers other types of therapy.


Share Your Own Amazing Story


See other amazing victories.