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Former Pro Surfer Mercedes Maidana's New Mission

Mercedes Maidana spent her whole life surfing and became a pro big-wave surfer. But her career came to a crashing halt after suffering a hit from a wave. She struggled transitioning from surfing to a corporate life due to persistent cognitive symptoms from the concussion, which led her to leave Hawaii to start a recovery program that lasted 14 months. Maidana pledged to donate her brain to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) research to help further the study of brain trauma among the surfing community. She is sharing her story and struggles with Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) to be a leader for other athletes, raise awareness of concussion and PCS in the surfing community, and to help others struggling with PCS know they’re not alone. 

Mercedes Maidana Surf

Posted: July 19, 2017

By, Mercedes Maidana



It’s strange how you can live your life never coming across the phrase “Post-Concussion Syndrome,” never thinking about it or knowing what it is. And then – boom – a series of events means you don’t go a day without thinking about PCS. How to fight it, how to solve it like a puzzle, how to explain it to doctors, or family, or friends

Three years ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury that affected every area of my life. I lost my career in big wave surfing and I was unable to keep a regular job because my PCS symptoms left me fatigued, anxious, and depressed. For three difficult years, I wasn’t myself.

It got to the point where I knew I needed drastic help, so I moved from Hawaii to Austin, Texas to start my recovery. I dedicated myself for fourteen months to extensive treatments and I was blessed to find the right guidance. My symptoms have gotten better, and I’m finally back in charge of my life and appreciating a new-found health that took so long to achieve.

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I’m using my experience to help people who are currently suffering from the effects of a head injury and don’t know where to turn. The most important thing is to reach out for help and to stay hopeful. Your brain can heal. When you’re in the middle of a tough recovery process, this simple feeling of hope can be hard to find. Having a support system to keep you on track is essential.

I’ve decided to pledge my brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research. I want My Legacy to be that I paid it forward, used my experience to help others navigate the seemingly impossible process of dealing with a traumatic brain injury. There isn’t a lot of research on brain trauma among surfers, and I want to be a leader in my sport, my community.

When you take a painful hit from an enormous wave like I did, it can be easy to focus on yourself, to dwell on why this happened to me. But the reality is that sports, especially extreme sports like big wave surfing, carry a risk of injury. I want the lessons I’ve learned throughout my recovery process to be available in case another athlete needs to hear that help is out there and they’re not alone.

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