Elijah Glover had a heart of gold. He loved all sports during his youth, but his heart belonged to lacrosse. After he stopped playing his senior year of high school, the usually reserved Glover became irritable and aggressive, and had troubles with memory. He passed away in April 2022 at the age of 24. His brain was later donated to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank for study. Below, Glover’s mother Drenary shares the Legacy of her son and her powerful message to other parents.
By Drenary Gwynn, Elijah's mother
Elijah James Glover was my eldest son. He was captivating and determined. He was not easily swayed and believed deeply in the love and commitment of family. Even as a young child he showed great appreciation for those he loved. I remember him working at yard sales and cutting grass for money to buy me birthday and Christmas gifts. He was funny, clever, intelligent, and wise beyond his years. And though he was bigger than the other kids, he was never aggressive and didn’t get into fights.
Elijah mastered everything he attempted and played with his whole heart. Elijah played baseball, wrestling and basketball, but his heart was in lacrosse, and his spirit simply embodied football. Elijah started little league football the summer of his fifth birthday. He practiced diligently and played at maximum potential. I was such a proud mom watching from the stands, in awe of his abilities. The onlookers shouting his number, “25” and his name, “E” was exhilarating. I felt a sense of pride and honor at who Elijah became when he put the stick in his hand or when he broke from the team huddle and they yelled, “Down! Set…”
Elijah suffered many blows to the head we now realize were concussions. I wondered if they would have a lasting effect on Elijah’s brain. I started comparing the impact sustained by football players to those of boxing contenders and champions. I remember Elijah’s last hit to the head in 2015 after a lacrosse game when he was 17 years old. He reported seeing stars, feeling nausea, and requiring some assistance off the field. The concussion concerned me enough to make an appointment with a concussion clinic near our home in Baltimore, Maryland.
Shortly after the injury in 2015, I noticed remarkable changes in Elijah’s mood. He was usually reserved and calm, but he became irritable, constantly pushed boundaries, showed outward signs of aggression, made poor choices, and started smoking marijuana. Elijah forgot family memories and even when prompted by photos he simply could not remember they happened. He no longer went out with friends and became unmotivated. He was depressed and shared dark thoughts and feelings. He preferred to be asleep over being awake. Our relationship, which had always been as strong as a rock, deteriorated.
Elijah began an uphill battle with addiction. He was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder and was prescribed medications which he often abused, compounding his issues. After further consideration and research, I realized Elijah’s symptoms mirrored CTE. I vehemently disagreed with the mental health diagnosis and recognized his new, destructive behaviors aligned with CTE.
During his most recent stay in treatment, it looked like Elijah was going to turn things around. But unfortunately, he left us on April 17, 2022 due to a heart attack, stemming from an enlarged heart. He was just 24. Based on everything I learned before his death, I made the decision to donate his brain for CTE research at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank and am currently awaiting the results.
Elijah is my son. I speak of him in the present because he will always be my beautiful, sweet boy. I was there for the two most important moments of his life – the day he was born and the day he transitioned. I worry I will forget his face, forget what his voice sounds like and forget the powerful force he was on the lacrosse and football fields. I worry he will be forgotten by all who encountered him.
I want more minorities to be properly informed and educated about the impact of too many concussions early in life. I know parents may believe their child’s success is the only way to make it out of their circumstances. But it is unfair to look for the child to save his family at the cost of their brain and, in my son’s case, their life.
Some parents may not want to tell all of this information to the world. It might make them feel like they are ruining their child’s image. But I don’t share that feeling. I know Elijah and he would want to selflessly give to somebody else if it meant he could save their life. I am telling Elijah’s story to help parents make informed decisions about their children’s future. Unfortunately, it took Elijah’s experience to change my perspective on what sports kids should play. Elijah’s two younger brothers did not and will not play contact sports.
Football is great but it is crucial to know the many risks of playing the sport, especially before a certain age. My son was unrecognizable at the end; I didn’t even know who he was. You don’t want to have a memorial wall of all his trophies and accomplishments and not have him.
Yes, children need to play sports to stay out of trouble. But I challenge all parents to find a healthier way to keep their children productive – whether it’s safer sports like flag football, or other activities like coding. Please think of the long-term and consider how their life will turn out in the future.
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