Alex Danson: My hidden story

A strong mindset can be your most powerful tool. For the last 17 months, GB hockey star Alex Danson has been recovering from a mild traumatic brain injury. Here she reveals why she wanted to share her experience on film – and what she learned along the way.

Watch the three films that tell Alex's story: 
Part one: The accidentPart two: The treatment; and Part three: The return


“I once thought I wouldn't be well enough to tell this story.

 

When Investec asked to make a film about my journey to recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury, I thought I would struggle. I was still very poorly and the process felt daunting.

 

That said, it felt like an important story to tell. A head injury is a hidden condition and I hope I can explain what it’s like and shine a light on the support that is available.

 

As captain of the GB and England women’s hockey teams, my purpose was to maintain peak athletic performance. One moment changed that.

 

The last 17 months of my life have been surreal; sometimes I can’t believe what has happened. When I watch the films I can see how far I’ve come, but I still suffer with headaches every day.

 

Watching my husband and my brother reflect is particularly emotional. When you’re in this situation, your family protect you from how they feel and what they’ve gone through. They did everything for me. They kept me going. It’s moving to hear how they helped each other too.

 

I hope that the films explain how valuable that kind of support network is, and help someone who is suffering to find the care they need. Places like Hobbs Rehabilitation are out there and I want to raise awareness.

 

It’s now a few months on from when we finished filming. Although I’m feeling much better, my injury and other events that have affected my family recently, have given me a new perspective on life. The last six weeks of training with my teammates showed me there’s a risk element to returning to professional hockey and I’ve realised it’s not a risk I’m able to take.

 

I’ve therefore made the decision to retire from playing hockey. While my mind is on my injury and my family, it’s the right thing to do.

Alex Danson, GB women's hockey gold medalist
Alex Danson talks about life after her mild traumatic brain injury

Although I’m feeling much better, my injury and other events that have affected my family recently, have given me a new perspective on life... I’ve therefore made the decision to retire.

I am so proud of my career. To become an Olympic champion at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics was the ultimate success, but for me it was about how we got there as a team – the training, the travelling and the memories we made.  

 

I will miss that drive for excellence, but I know it will translate into something new. I have seen hockey change from an amateur to a professional sport and I’ll continue to stay involved through my own Academy, and hopefully in other ways too.

 

As I write this letter, my overriding feeling is gratitude for how far I’ve come. Both in my career, and in my recovery. I want to thank every person that has been part of my journey. You've had an enormous impact on my life. Without you I would not be where I am today.”

 

Alex

Alex Danson is an ambassador for Investec


 
 

Part one: The accident

"I turned to talk to one of my teammates and I lost the ability to speak. It terrified me. All I remember thinking was 'don't make a fuss, you'll be fine'."

"I turned to talk to one of my teammates and I lost the ability to speak. It terrified me. All I remember thinking was 'don't make a fuss, you'll be fine'."

 

 

Part two: The treatment

"Had I not gone to Hobbs Rehabilitation, I don't know when I would ever have had the confidence to move quicker than a walk. I didn't even think about being able to jog."

 

 

Part three: The return

"It's the steepest mountain I've ever climbed. Sometimes I get to a ridge only to see I have to go down before I go back up. When I do reach the top, it will be the best view I have ever seen."

"It's the steepest mountain I've ever climbed. Sometimes I get to a ridge only to see I have to go down before I go back up. When I do reach the top, it will be the best view I have ever seen."

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