Feb 7, 2019End of the Road
After 19 years of playing basketball, Nora Kiesler, a senior center for Purdue University’s women’s basketball team, is giving up the game. The reason? She recently suffered her fifth concussion in four-and-a-half years.
According to the Journal & Courier, Kiesler’s first concussion occurred while she was still in high school, but the last four were all at Purdue—including three over a six-month span in 2016. The most recent head injury took place during an offseason workout in July when Kiesler was elbowed in the face. Although the medical staff said the contact was “minimal,” Kiesler had a “really maximum reaction to it.”
“In the case of other people, they would’ve gotten right back on again,” said Kiesler’s mother, Courtney Dillon.
It wasn’t the case for Kiesler. After her previous concussions, she had undergone Botox treatments, maximum doses of different medications and vitamins, and a 24-hour IV to provide relief from the headaches and migraines she suffered. This time, Tad Seifert, MD, Kiesler’s neurologist, sat her down to have a difficult discussion.
“We sat in his office,” Kiesler said. “He said, ‘This is a conversation I never wanted to have with you. This is a decision I never wanted to make. I can’t let you go back on the floor. I think it’s time to stop playing.’”
Sharon Versyp, Purdue’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, said the decision to quit was hard on Kiesler.
“It was very rough. A lot of tears,” Versyp said. “She has a love and passion for the game. It just ripped her apart; it ripped all of us apart. It’s been a process. She’s really struggled. I think she’s starting to turn the corner but the preseason, the first of not being in a uniform, I can’t imagine … I’ve never been through it.”
Kiesler said that while she struggled to give up basketball, being able to help her teammates with their practices gives her a sense of purpose. In addition, knowing that her decision played a role in easing the headaches and migraines she suffered helped her see the bigger picture surrounding her injury.
“It doesn’t make it easier and it doesn’t make the grieving process hurt any less,” Kiesler said. “It does help me understand that life is so much bigger than basketball and basketball has meant so much to me my entire life. It’s not all that I am, all that I will be or what I what to be known for.”
Dillon said she was glad for her daughter’s decision.
“You want your kids to be happy and healthy and I had to watch her be unhappy to get healthy,” Dillon said. “She’s handled this with as much maturity as you can conjure up from a 22-year old. That piece of having her back is bright and shiny and fun and giving me a hard way to go and is sure of herself and happy, it’s worth it.”