By Alyssa Stanczak
Hoisted five-feet-high off the ground by two fellow cheerleaders, a small error resulted in a dramatic change for Lauren Wegner. While practicing a stunt for cheerleading her sophomore year, Wegner was dropped, hit her head, and obtained a concussion, which caused her to lose her sense of smell and sense of taste. Wegner, now a senior at Batavia High School, is still without these senses but has many great memories from her years as a cheerleader.
Wegner hit her head in August of her sophomore year and her senses started to fade out in November. However, she says they weren’t gone completely until February of that year. She was told there is no name for this condition, but from the little they do know about it, doctors said it should have been temporary. Now, a whole two years later, she is still without these senses. There is still a small chance she could get these senses back, but because of the time that passed since the fall it is highly unlikely that they will return.
“Any sport can be dangerous when proper techniques and skills are not followed,” said Jennifer Melendez, Wegner’s cheer coach. “Cheer is no different.”
Melendez said that with these guidelines, risk of injuries can still go up when they try a new or extremely advanced skill. However, the team tried to diminish risk of injury by always following the right precautions. All of the cheerleaders follow guidelines, such as using spotters and mats, to help eliminate risk. Injuries that do occur, like Wegner’s, are usually fluke accidents.
Coach Melendez says injuries like sprained ankles, sprained wrists, pulled muscles, and concussions are all very common injuries for cheer. Losing the ability to smell and taste is not one of them and Melendez hasn’t seen anything like it in her time being a coach.
However odd, Wegner says after the initial shock, it didn’t alter her life much after that. Wegner continued to cheer, go to school, and get Starbucks with her friends just as she had done before the accident. The only difference is now she couldn’t taste her Starbucks drink or smell the concession snacks while cheering at football games.
Without her sense of smell not only can she not smell the concessions but she also wouldn’t be able to smell a gas leak or a fire. Because of this Wegner’s parents had to buy natural gas detectors and more smoke alarms for their home. Along with these adjustments, Wegner says she can’t enjoy food the way she could before the fall. This change has lead her to eating healthier. Because Wegner can not taste flavors it’s also led her to craves textures. Instead of wanting something sweet or salty she began wanting foods that were crunchy or chewy.
It’s common for athletes to hold back after an injury because they are afraid to get injured again. This was definitely not the case for Wegner. After her concussion and loss of smell and taste Wegner kept cheering. She ignored her fear of falling and getting hurt for a second time and cheered through her junior and senior year.
Wegner is attending the University of Kentucky this fall and will not be cheering – not because of her fall sophomore year but because of a hip injury she suffered after football season this year.
“Lauren is always so positive,” said Wegner’s friend and teammate, Lauren Smith. “Even after the accident she gave cheer everything she had.”