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Shona McCallin: Getting My Head Back in the Game

Team England midfielder Shona McCallin reveals her reaction to finding out she wasn’t going to the World Cup, and what she’s learned along her journey to recovery from concussion.

What comes to mind when you hear “concussion?” A tough blow to the head? An overnight hospital stay? Maybe a few residual headaches? 

For Team England midfielder Shona McCallin, “concussion” has meant putting her entire life on hold. More than just a few headaches, it’s been debilitating, playing out in a long recovery and leaving her out of the running for some of the biggest tournaments of the year.

Back in February, the Olympic Gold Medalist was playing in Argentina and gearing up for the World Cup. But a blow from another player’s shoulder to the side of her head ruled her out of the Commonwealth Games and ultimately affected her World Cup status.

The 26-year-old is one of three players this year to miss the World Cup because of concussion. 

“When I found out that I wasn’t going to be going to the World Cup officially, I kind of already knew,” said the British hockey star. “Obviously when you see it on email and your name’s not there, it hits you again.”

When Shona realized she wouldn’t be joining the rest of her England teammates at the London World Cup, she took a bit of time to rest and process – something she says involved a lot of Netflix and rubbish food. But, determined to be back in action, she didn’t stay static for long. Shona quickly connected with doctors, brain experts and the team’s trainers to develop a plan for rehabilitation. 

However, as she continues to learn, recovery is a waiting game.

“When I was allowed to get back into gentle exercises, it was about really easy stuff,” she said. “It was holding a plank, holding a side plank, holding a hamstring bridge, maybe sitting on a bike for ten minutes keeping your heart rate up.” 

Still recovering, and with a new appreciation for the body and brain, Shona is focused on celebrating the little wins, like passing her treadmill test and getting closer with her fellow teammate Nicola White, who is also recovering from concussion. 

She’s also raising awareness and understanding around the “invisible injury,” and working hard to be back on the pitch as soon as possible – but not sooner than she’s ready. 

“At the end of the day you only have one brain,” Shona reflects. “You have to look after it.”

More encouragement from Shona McCallin on practicing self-care in Just Know You’re Not Alone