When Meredith Prillaman took the soccer field on a Sunday in October 2018, she expected the game to be like every other she’d played for the last five years.
Toward the end of the second half, a player from the opposing team charged Meredith, causing her to fall and hit the back of her head. She quickly got up and shook it off, leading her parents and teammates to assume she was fine.
But two minutes later in the game, Meredith soon began showing symptoms of a possible concussion. She found herself standing in the way of the goalie attempting to clear the ball. The goalie landed a powerful kick straight to Meredith’s left temple, and she dropped to the ground for the second time.
The game quickly came to a close and Meredith’s parents took her home to rest. They called her pediatrician the same evening and explained Meredith symptoms: signs of disorientation, visual disturbances, pain and dizziness.
The next day Meredith visited her pediatrician, who confirmed she had received not one but two concussions. She was promptly referred to see a pediatric concussion specialist at a local hospital.
For the next month, Meredith was pulled out of school and saw doctors for weekly treatment. Despite attending every early morning appointment and following through with treatment recommendations, Meredith’s condition worsened.
At the end of the month, the doctor told Meredith’s mom, Elizabeth Black, that there was nothing else they could do. Meredith would need to find a new doctor for treatment.
Elizabeth, a Patient Care Administrator at Northside Hospital Atlanta, found herself crying at her desk later that day for fear of Meredith’s condition. A co-worker stopped to comfort her, and after hearing about Meredith’s issues, recommended she visit the Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute Sports Medicine.
Within a week, Meredith met with Dr. Daniel Charek. He confirmed Meredith had a serious grade two concussion and began treatment that same day.
“Dr. Charek used a totally different protocol for treatment than what Meredith had been following for the past month, and that made all the difference,” Elizabeth said.
Meredith’s treatment plan was directed by results from a computer-based, ImPACT test used to assess brain functions such as memory, processing speed and visual acuity. While most patients normally take the test once or twice, Meredith took the test 10 times along with other diagnostic tools. This allowed Dr. Charek to continually tailor her treatment plan and closely monitor her progress from the results.
Differing from common concussion advice, Dr. Charek let Meredith sleep as much as she needed and encouraged her to go outside for walks – both as ways to let her brain rest.
Meredith also attended physical therapy to address the neck injury and soft tissue whiplash and saw experts for occupational therapy and vestibular therapy. She saw Dr. Mark Sakr for additional medical checkups between her therapy appointments.
After seven months, Meredith recovered and began returning to normal.
“I am so thankful for the results we saw after our time at Northside,” Elizabeth said. “I really credit my daughter’s recovery to the tailored Northside treatment plan and their connections to the right providers.”
Meredith returned to school in spring 2018 and finished treatment in fall 2019. She still attends follow-up appointments with Dr. Sakr as well as a local pediatric neurologist. She suffers from post-concussion syndrome and will likely have migraines for the rest of her life.
Now a freshman and honor roll student in high school, Meredith advocates for better concussion education at her school.
“There is still a lot of room for better concussion education with players,” Meredith said. “I always check on my friends after a game now, especially if they’ve hit their head.”
She rejoined her soccer team in May 2019 and returned to the field for the last game of the 2019 season.
“We thought we knew what a concussion looked like, but we were delayed in recognizing the worsening symptoms that could have put Meredith at more risk,” Elizabeth said. “It’s so important for parents, coaches and players to know how serious a brain injury can be and always follow up with a concussion specialist after a hit.”