As we finish 2016, our thoughts at the BDN turn to the interesting people we met throughout the year. It’s been our privilege to share the snapshots of their lives, whether uplifting, tragic or surreal, with our readers.
Yet we know the story doesn’t end with our telling, and in fact, the story often changes greatly after we’ve told it. This makes “Whatever happened to … “ a common refrain not only in our newsroom, but we expect, among the public as well.
That’s why, at the end of this year, we wanted to find out “whatever happened.” For the next few weeks, we’ll be touching base with several Mainers whose stories came to attention during the year. What we found may sadden, delight, or surprise. In all cases, we hope you enjoy them.
– Anthony Ronzio, Editor, BDN
Dan Carriker admits his short-term memory is “nowhere as good as it was” and that blows to the head today can make him really angry.
But the former offensive lineman for the University of Maine football team, nevertheless, said he is feeling better than 16 months ago, when a third concussion during a span of 2½ years ended his playing days prematurely.
He is one of several UMaine athletes who have had their athletic careers altered or shortened by concussions. During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, an average of 16.5 players involved in football or ice hockey — men and women — suffered concussions, according to the university.
Troy Reid-Knight, a senior on the men’s basketball team, has suffered seven concussions since 2013, and another one could end his career. But ankle surgery has sidelined him this season.
Carriker and Reid-Knight told their concussion stories to the BDN late in 2015 to contrast how the complexities of head injuries dictate that they must be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Carriker, 23, is now back home in Alexandria, Virginia. He said his concussion symptoms remain and have changed.
“It’s not as bad as it was. Everything has plateaued the last six months,” he said, speaking from his parents’ home. “I do get headaches. It’s like a sharp pain. It usually lasts 30 seconds or so. I never used to have it like that before.”
Carriker, who has his degree in construction engineering technology, recently left a construction job. He is now working for family and friends while looking for another full-time job.
He still works out regularly but isn’t lifting weights like did at UMaine. “I mostly do the treadmill and bike, and I might do some free weights,” Carriker said. “I don’t work out like I used to because I don’t need to be 300 pounds of muscle. I can be a normal person again.”
Reid-Knight suffered seven concussions during his first three-plus years at UMaine. He experienced dizziness and a feeling of “fogginess,” then intermittent headaches that affected his sleep and led to a heightened sensitivity to bright light and loud noise.
He has been concussion free since suffering one on Oct. 13, 2015. He continued to play last season despite the risk of potential long-term health issues related to head injuries.
Reid-Knight has been out of harm’s way since he sustained a broken ankle on Oct. 7 that required surgery and has forced him out of action for the rest of the season.
Carriker can’t explain why hits to the head get him so irritated. It happened recently when he was struck by a football while attending a game at his former high school.
“I got really angry, and I had to leave. I don’t get mad to the point where I do anything. I get real quiet and start pacing. It never used to happen,” Carriker said. “It lasts a minute or two.”
His his passion for football or his alma mater is not dampened, however. Carriker followed this year’s Black Bear team as much as he could and said he misses being at UMaine “every day.”
“I had 90 best friends up there. They were my brothers. Back home, I have three or four (close friends),” Carriker said.