Tuesday September 18, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Andy Waluszko had witnessed the aftermath of concussions before, but none quite like this.

Waluszko’s Pittsfield Generals were playing Lenox on Sept. 10 when forward Lindsay Neuberger banged heads with an opponent going for a head ball. The junior kept playing, at one point wandering out of position. The coach subbed Neuberger out and she mumbled something coming off the field before sitting on the ground.

"For me, it’s the scariest I’ve seen it," Waluszko said. "She didn’t even know who we played. She thought it was like Saturday. She didn’t know we were playing Lenox. She didn’t know what day it was. It was really scary."

Neuberger watched Monday’s 1-0 win over Ludlow from the bench at Kirvin Park, cheering her teammates to their fifth win in six games. Losing Neuberger changed the offensive dynamic up front, but Pittsfield has still found ways to produce goals from different place. Waluszko said he’s been happy with the way Amanda Wright has aggressively filled in up front.

Neuberger isn’t allowed to attend practice as she recovers. She still can’t remember most of the weekend before her concussion or driving to the emergency room.

"It’s frustrating," Neuberger said. "Because the team is doing so well, I really want to be out there helping. I know health comes first. It’s just tough.


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I’m not scared of it because I have a lot of really good people watching out for me."

Waluszko said Neuberger won’t be back at practice until he gets a written note from her doctor. Even then, he plans on easing the forward, who won a starting spot in the preseason, back into game action.

Waluszko’s daughter, Amanda, and former Pittsfield goalkeeper Katie Coscia both suffered concussions before graduating in 2009. In fact, girls soccer is second only to football in the number of concussions according to a study in April in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. That study found 8.2 percent of concussions reported from 2008 to 2010 on American High School sports teams happened in girls soccer.

The coach said most, if not all, of the concussions he’s witnessed have been the result of head-to-head or head-to-ground collisions. Pittsfield neurologist Dr. Ellen Deibert said earlier this year that proper heading technique and having the neck strength to manage the forces that come with heading the ball can also be factors in soccer concussions.

No matter how they happen, the injury is something Waluszko doesn’t take lightly.

"She really wants to come out, I said ‘[The head] is the most important thing,’ " Waluszko said. "Soccer’s great. You’re playing but we got to make sure your brain’s working. That’s a big piece."

For now, Neuberger can only watch and cheer.

"I love the support everyone’s showing me because I’m new to the team," Neuberger said. "I just moved here a few weeks ago. It’s amazing how they all want me back and they’re all watching out for me. They’re more worried about my health than I am at this point."