Iowa soccer player makes headway in recovery from concussion - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa soccer player makes headway in recovery from concussion

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- In an instant a concussion can sideline an athlete.

It happened to one eastern Iowa soccer player who had to choose between protecting his brain or playing college soccer.  Since first grade Joe Ryken has been hitting his mark on the soccer field.

But it was a hit to his head at soccer camp in Indiana that caused his first concussion.

"It was the last game before we went home and I jumped up to like head the ball then I woke up and I was on all fours and felt like I was gonna puke," Joe Ryken said.

Ryken recovered from that one, went on to play high school soccer in Iowa City and landed a scholarship in the sport from Truman State in Kirksville, Missouri.

That's where two more concussions changed the game for the now 19-year-old.  His father, who happens to be a neurosurgeon at Covenant Clinic in Waterloo, saw him take a terrible fall in one game.  He found himself in a position many parents face, but with intimate knowledge about the risk of repeated concussions and brain damage.

"I think as a parent there's a tendency to downplay the injury to say well this will be okay, maybe it wasn't that bad. If I turn around and you see your own child as a physician I would not let this young man go back and play after repetitive concussions and it is very hard that you're got an emotional component," Dr. Timothy Ryken said.

Doctor Ryken and his son agreed continuing to play soccer was not worth the risk.

He transferred to the University of Iowa where his advice to young people is participate, to a point.

"Your brain is way more important than that. I wouldn't risk it," Joe Ryken said.

Joe still plays soccer, but now only for fun.  Each year an estimated 130,000 young people have concussions playing sports.

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