Female Athletes Head for Trouble

She and Brooks speak at conferences held by groups such as the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. "We can't wait for research to catch up with the question of why women are at risk," Brooks says. "These young athletes need prevention and education now." Brooks establishes a pilot prevention program in her home school district of Bernardsville and becomes a memeber of the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund, which receives 50 cents from every car-registration fee in New Jersey. Among other things, it pays for baseline neuropsychological testing in high schools. Across the state, doctors and trainers can now compare pre- and post-injury test performances to help them decide when athletes can return to play.

When she feels they're ready, Brooks introduces her female patients to one another, connecting young women who have reforged their identities and rechanneled their energies after experiencing brain injury. "You have a choice," Melissa tells a former Rutgers field hockey player who has suffered 17 concussions and been through headaches, seizures and depression. "You can keep playing, or you can read to your kids someday."

It's the winter of 2009, and she still sees every angle.

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