Alexis Ball, a La Cueva High school valedictorian and former University of New Mexico soccer standout, once was unstoppable on the playing field and in the classroom.

After earning top scholastic honors and being named New Mexico’s Gatorade Player of the Year at Albuquerque’s La Cueva in 2007, the speedy midfielder went on to become the University of New Mexico’s leading goal scorer in 2007 and 2008 and earned all-conference honors. But a series of 10 concussions in high school and college eventually took their toll, and she began suffering debilitating headaches, dizziness and depression.

In 2009, Ball was forced to hang up her cleats and retire from soccer for good.

Ball, now a senior at UNM, on Wednesday urged members of Congress – and the general public – to take concussions seriously and asserted that “most coaches and athletes do not truly understand the long-term ramifications of concussions.

“”Concussions adversely impacted my life,” Ball testified during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee that included medical experts and a spokesman for a national committee on sports equipment. “I hope from my story you have learned that concussions and brain injury are not a minor injury.”Ball said she decided to retire from soccer after consulting with her doctors about the long-term damage she could sustain if she suffered another concussion.

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