Briana Scurry is as fiercely protective about her sport today as she was as a championship goalie during her illustrious soccer career, which began back at Anoka High School in the late 1980s.
The Minneapolis-born Scurry advocates for better safety measures for soccer — she suffered a career-ending concussion in 2010 when her head collided with an opposing player’s knee. It took a period of three years and a 2013 surgery to remove a nerve that went from her spine to her neck to the back of her head and hit a muscle before she finally recovered.
It was “a long road” to recovery, which included a year of physical therapy, Scurry points out. “But as soon as I got the right doctor, I knew I was on my way no matter how long it took and how I was going to get there.”
During an NABJ panel discussion on concussions in August, Scurry boldly stated she’d like to see helmets on soccer players, especially youth players. It was there at NABJ that this columnist first met in person the multi-championships goalie.
“We have to learn how to play a sport safer,” proclaimed Scurry. Getting hit in the head also has an emotional side that is not talked about nearly enough in Scurry’s opinion.
“The few that do talk about and have been through it, they don’t talk about how hard it is emotionally to deal with it. That’s one thing I want people to know is you are going to see [that] most of the time somebody who has been concussed…will be different for a while. It will not be their fault that they are mad at you or that they hate you. A lot of time they can’t control their actions, feelings, or how they are expressing what they are going through.
“These things can happen in an instant, but [it] could take a lifetime to recover,” said Scurry.
She was the United States women’s national soccer team starting goalie between 1994 and 2008, twice a member of two U.S. Olympic gold-winning squads (1996, 2004), a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-03), a member of the first women’s pro soccer league, and a member of the Washington team in Women’s Professional Soccer when she suffered the aforementioned concussion and later announced her retirement from soccer in 2010.
Being named among this year’s NABJ Sports Task Force Sam Lacy Pioneer Award winners was her second notable honor this year. Scurry will also become a permanent part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Title IX exhibit, which is scheduled to open on the Washington Mall next year.
“When they came and contacted me a few months ago and wanted to put me in the museum, I didn’t quite grasp it initially,” recalled Scurry. “But after a while I thought about it. They think that what I did…is worthy of being honored in a museum of my people, my culture, my race. It is a fantastic honor. I can’t even really quantify it.
“The only thing that would have made it better is if they were here now to see me inducted into the museum,” said Scurry of her late parents. “They for so long supported me… I would not have been able to reach and achieve my dreams” without that support.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.