I had a strange and disconcerting experience with concussion a few years ago. I had meant to retire from competitive skydiving that year, but had been persuaded to do a last year of hardcore training and participate in the National Champs in the 8 Way RW competition. This was a combination of my old team, that had won the competition for the last four years and our old arch-foes who had always come second, so it wasn't a clear cut winning team and the competition was going to be close among the top five teams.
I had a pressing business engagement and was only able to get to the DZ on the last day of practice. After a four hour drive, I arrived just in time for the lat practice dive before the competition (a reserve had down the previous jumps).
It was a military DZ way out in the flat Free State plains over which the wind howled most of the year. A line of high pine trees ran alongside the runway and sheltered the team tents.
Rushing through the walk through, I had no time to familiarise myself with the DZ.
We ran for the jumpship and climbed aboard the military DC3. The jump went well and on break off, I looked around and saw the DZ and runway with the windsock alongside it. Not really paying much attention I turned on a final approach that would allow me to glide in next to the line of trees and land alongside the tents.
As I began my flair, I hit some quite serious turbulence coming off the trees and had a pretty hard landing, head over heals in a ball of dust on the hard ground.
I had bashed my hockey helmeted head on the ground, but in no way disturbing to me. I got up and immediately packed my parachute and sank a beer while we discussed where we would go to eat in town.
A few hours later, after a refreshing shower, we all trekked off to an Italian restaurant in town. I was feeling fine, and had sunk a few more beers in the interim.
Our meals arrived and just as the waiter served me, I had a really horrible sensation as I was sitting at the table. The best way of describing it is I was sure I was dying and I passed out, head first in a bowl of hot spaghetti Carbonara.
There was a doctor also eating in the restaurant and he treated me as if I had suffered a heart attack. I came round, very disorientated a few minutes later and an ambulance rushed me off to a teaching hospital nearby.
A professor examined me and said that it seemed that my heart was fine, but I had some high pressure behind the eye-balls signifying a severe concussion.
Casting my mind back, all I could think of was the hardish landing I had that afternoon.
Anyway, he said that I should remain under observation for a couple of days.
Of course, the competition was starting early the next morning and I was worried that I would let my team down. Although I was feeling a bit woozy, I called a teamate very early the next morning , telling him that I had been discharged and I climbed out the ward window and got taken back to the DZ. What followed was a very nervous ten competition jumps over the following few days. These were the days before AODs, so I told my team mates to keep a sharp eye on me in free fall, and if I looked dozy, they should please pop my reserve for me.
The anxiety that another period of unconsciousness made the plane rides a bit of a trial for me, but once out of the plane in free fall, the concentration needed for the jumps took my mind off the risk.
Fortunately, there was no recurrence of unconsciousness and my team went on to win the competition and I retired from competition right after the meet.