Lombardoni overcomes concussion

Stop playing lacrosse.

Those are three words Stevie Lombardoni never imagined she would hear when she stepped foot into the Gannon athletic training room in August of 2010.

Though she is finally back in action for the Knights this spring, her career was drastically altered after taking a stick check to the face during one of the final games in April 2010 during her senior year at Mexico High School in Mexico, N.Y.

“I went one v. one with a girl, and after I beat her she checked me – she took her stick and hit me in the face,” she said. “I don’t even know if she got a red card or anything because I don’t remember much after that.”

Lombardoni, a sophomore at the attack position for the Knights, said that although she was disoriented after the hit, she can remember being taken off the field and hearing her coach yelling.

“I was on the ground and my coach just started screaming, ‘There’s blood, there’s blood,’” she said.

Despite being diagnosed with a minor concussion, Lombardoni said she was able to finish out her senior season – not doing so, according to her, was out of the question.

“I was the leading scorer for my high school team,” she said. “They needed me.”

However, when Lombardoni came to play for the Knights, she underwent a mandatory evaluation from the Gannon trainers before being cleared to play. When asked how many concussions she had sustained over the course of her career, she told them maybe two or three.

“It was probably more but some of them aren’t really recorded down,” she said.

Because of this, the trainers referred her to Tammy Kordes, a neurologist at Hamot Hospital, for a second approval before clearing her for action.

Lombardoni, who first picked up a lacrosse stick in seventh grade, said the results of the tests Kordes gave her were unfathomable.

“She said I had a severe concussion and couldn’t believe I was still playing,” she said. “I was so shocked – I just started crying because they told me my career could be over with. They told me I could die if I didn’t slow down, and that just really set me back to reality.”

The overwhelming news didn’t stop there.

Not only did she have to change her entire diet in order to prevent the chronic headaches she had been experiencing for months, Lombardoni said she was limited from doing any activity that would get her blood pumping. For someone so used to physical activity, Lombardoni said she could not imagine being so dormant.

“I couldn’t even walk fast to classes or anything,” she said.

She also said she was forced to take several different medications, including Topamax and Prozac, which are usually meant to treat epilepsy and emotional disorders, respectively.

“I was at risk for having seizures if I hit my head again, and the Prozac was for the headaches,” she said. “I hated it.”

After enduring months of inactivity and sitting on the sidelines during the team’s 2011 season, Lombardoni was finally cleared in April of that same year, but was still forced to watch as a redshirt freshman.

Now, in the midst of the team’s 2012 season under a new head coach, Lindsey Lowman, Lombardoni is one of the Knights’ top attackers and offensive performers.

According to Lowman, Lombardoni has a lot going for her.

“I didn’t see her at all last year, so for me I was justing walking in fresh,” Lowman said. “Stevie is definitely a strong player. She’s got great one v. one moves, a strong shot, she’s a quick sprinter.”

Though Lombardoni said she still feels like she isn’t back up to the level she once was at, Lowman said that one would never know she had been injured, or been forced to sit out for an entire year.

“You wouldn’t know that at all from watching her play, she goes hard all the time,” she said. “There are times when we need to get a goal and I can pull her aside and say, ‘Stevie, get the ball and just go, do it yourself.’”

But Lombardoni said she has still been hard on herself, at least internally, as Lowman said she never brings it up or tries to use the injury as an excuse.

“Things are harder for me to process,” Lombardoni said. “When we run plays, I’ll be like, ‘Shoot, that was my cut,’ my defender will turn her head and I should be cutting but I’m still processing.”

Hesitation is the one aspect of Lombardoni’s game that Lowman said she may be able to pinpoint to the concussions.

“She’s afraid to get in the middle of a scrum, if there’s lots of sticks flying, or weaving through where a lot of sticks would be coming down for checks,” she said. “But I don’t even think about it, really. It doesn’t enter my mind that that’s why maybe she’s tentative.”

Lombardoni said although she doesn’t feel completely back to normal, she has felt comfortable being back on the field with her teammates.

“It was tough, not being able to play the sport I love,” she said. “And it was hard not having my mom there to go to the doctors’ appointments with me.”

So far, the team has played seven matches. Lombardoni has made a big impact in each one, starting five of them. She’s currently fifth in goals with 12, and is second on the team in shot percentage at .600.

But her career as a Knight will end after this season, as she said she plans to transfer to State University of New York at Oswego, a school closer to home, because of financial issues.

“She brought it to my attention, and I’m bummed,” Lowman said. “She’s got a lot of great things that she could do here so it’s disappointing that she’s going to have to go.”

Lowman said that although she’s aware Lombardi may not be at Gannon next year, this holds no implications for the current season.

“I told her, just do the best you can with it this year and have fun,” she said. “I’m not going to not play her just because she’s not going to be here. I want to use Stevie because she’s a great player.”

 

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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