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She Was No. 1 and Headed to Stanford. Then Came the Hits

The 'LAT' looks at what happened to volleyball star Hayley Hodson
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2020 8:07 AM CST
Updated Dec 27, 2020 6:00 AM CST

(Newser) Volleyball Magazine's April 2015 cover featured the No. 1 college volleyball recruit in America: Hayley Hodson. A lengthy December 2020 Los Angeles Times article about the player has a less positive flavor. The Californian, now 24, played for Stanford as a freshman and alleges that two blows to the head she suffered there weren't properly treated—and ended up ending her career and ruining her health. As Patrick Hruby reports, Stanford was just one part of Hodson's plan, which involved playing in the 2020 Olympic Games and then having a pro career abroad. Then came that first hit, on Nov. 9, 2015. Team coach John Dunning ran Hodson and her teammate through the "courage" drill, in which a coach on a stool spikes the ball toward the players, who need to "dig," meaning dive to keep it from hitting the floor.

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Hruby cites a 2012 YouTube video that shows Dunning running the drill. "You need to be careful," he says at the start. "If I were you and going to do this—well, I don’t know if I would do it at all." Hodson did do it, and suffered a blow to her right head strong enough that it impacted her vision. A team doctor diagnosed her the next day with a "mild concussion," and vision issues and brain fog persisted. On Nov. 27, she took a ball to the forehead while playing UCLA. Hruby cites studies and the CDC in reporting it's been shown athletes who experience a second concussion while not healed from the prior one have an increased risk of "prolonged or permanent symptoms." That's been the case for Hodson, who says that UCLA game was the last time she played well; insomnia, migraines, dizziness, and blurry vision followed. By early 2017, a clinical neuropsychologist determined parts of her brain were operating at 10%. She medically retired. (Read the full story, which includes what she's seeking in her suit against the NCAA and Stanford.)

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