Concussion Sidelines Young Soccer Player

Forward McKenna Sacca, 11, was lunging for a soccer ball during an indoor match in Vacaville with her team, Hysteria, when she fell head-first into the Plexiglas wall surrounding the field.

Although she didn’t lose consciousness, it was a stunning blow, so her coach pulled her out. By the end of the game, McKenna seemed to have recovered, and was allowed to play the final five minutes.

“I noticed she was a little disoriented after the game, and she complained of a headache when we got home,” recalls her mother, Cindy Sacca. “I was upset and concerned about her accident so I gave her an Advil and told her to rest.”

That night McKenna felt well enough to go to a birthday party, where one of the parents noticed her pupils were dilated. “She has dark brown eyes, so it’s very hard to see dilated pupils,” Cindy says. “When she texted me that she didn’t feel good, I went and picked her up.”

Cindy and her husband agreed that it was time to seek medical help, and McKenna’s doctor urged the family to go to the emergency department.

“With three active children, especially two boys in the family, we’ve been emergency room patients before, but never with soccer,” says Cindy. “All of my kids have played since they were 5, and we’ve had a couple of minor injuries, but no broken bones or stitches or anything like that.”

Head injuries in children can have serious consequences if they are not recognized and treated quickly. The VacaValley Hospital emergency physician took a detailed history of McKenna’s symptoms, examined her and ordered a CT scan to rule out severe injuries. Her CT scan was sent to UC Davis Medical Center for review, and the physician there recommended her immediate transfer to their care.

That night, Cindy and McKenna boarded a REACH medical helicopter for a trip to the Sacramento medical center, where McKenna was admitted to the ICU. Every two hours she was given neurological and cognitive tests. She was released on Monday only to return to UC Davis Medical Center at the end of the week after her legs suddenly gave out and she fell.

“The doctors concluded her collapse was unusual but probably just a side-effect from her head injury. So, after a one-night stay, we brought her home for good,” Cindy says.

Her final diagnosis: a concussion—the most common type of traumatic brain injury. The only reminder of her ordeal is the fact that she’s restricted from playing soccer or any contact sport for six months to a year, just to make sure her head has time to heal.

Symptoms of Head Injury


If your child displays any of these symptoms following a head injury, call your pediatrician or go to the emergency department immediately:

  • Vomiting that continues four to six hours after the injury
  • A severe or worsening headache develops
  • Is confused or not acting normally
  • Has a hard time walking or talking
  • Unequal size of pupils
  • Double vision or blurry vision
  • Persistent ringing in the ears
  • Blood or watery fluid coming from the nose or ears
  • Develops a stiff neck
  • Has a seizure (convulsion)
  • Has weakness or numbness in any part of the body
  • Becomes more and more drowsy or is hard to waken

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