Sac State women’s soccer midfielder prioritizes health after concussion

‘I’ve taken some pretty hard hits to my head all throughout my life’ says Skylar Littlefield


Eucario Calderon

Sac State women’s soccer junior midfielder Skylar Littlefield poses for a photo at Hornet Field. Littlefield suffered a concussion after being hit in the head by a soccer ball during a match in the 2019 season.

During a women’s soccer away game at Portland State on Oct. 13, Sacramento State junior midfielder Skylar Littlefield was struck in the head by the ball, causing a concussion

Littlefield, 20, is currently majoring in communication studies at Sac State and received a scholarship to play soccer at Sac State. The junior midfielder has been playing soccer since the age of 4. 

Littlefield went on to describe the multiple hits to the head she took this past season.

“I got hit in a game when we were traveling to Idaho on Sept. 29,” Littlefield said. “I get hit in the head a lot so it didn’t bother me that much, but at practice when I would hit the ball it would ring in my mouth a little bit. I had headaches a lot but I thought that was just normal so I didn’t tell the trainer. 

“We went to Portland and I got hit in the head again. I was a foot away from the girl and she did a high kick and kicked the ball super hard into my temple area and I just dropped. The referee told me to stay down, they took me off to the side and ran some tests and they decided that they weren’t going to put me back in anymore.”

In order to be cleared to play, Littlefield had to be symptom-free for a full day, then for one week while undergoing a series of tests.

“I have to be symptom free for a day and then they start the seven-day protocol,” Littlefield said. “I have to go through seven days of not having symptoms and then I’m cleared.”

According to Littlefield, concussion tests are administered to soccer players at Sac State before the season begins.

“In the beginning of the year we take an impact concussion test and it gives you a bunch of tests online and at the very end, it records your brain activity,” Littlefield said. “It records your reaction time and your memory.

Littlefield detailed the tests Sac State runs when players suffer possible concussions.

“When you get a concussion (the first time) they do tests on the side of the field. They make you follow their finger, they make you run, see if you are sensitive to light, sensitive to noise or nauseous,” Littlefield said. “Then when you get back to school they make you take that impact test again and your results will come up at the end. If you did worse than the first time then, it means that you have a concussion.”

Unfortunately for Littlefield, she suffered her concussion the week before midterms.

“It was really hard because when you have a concussion you are supposed to limit your screen time, meaning you can’t be on your phone or the computer,” Littlefield said. “I have trouble sleeping already, but with this concussion, the first few days it was really hard for me to sleep because I woke up in the middle of the night nauseous all the time, feeling like I had to throw up. Then it changed and I started sleeping too much, so I would sleep for like 12 hours at a time. 

Littlefield said she fought to keep up with her classes.

“I tried to go back to school and when I would, it would just make me nauseous and my symptoms would get worse again so I’d have to go home. It was hard emailing the teachers and getting extensions. It was hard because I wanted to study but I wasn’t able to.”

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Despite playing soccer most of her life, Littlefield initially had no idea what a concussion was.

Eucario Calderon
Sac State women’s soccer junior midfielder Skylar Littlefield poses for a photo at Hornet Field. Littlefield played in all 18 games for the Hornets in the 2018 season, with three goals, including one game winner.

“In high school, I hit the ball a lot and I’ve taken some pretty hard hits to my head all throughout my life,” Littlefield said. “I don’t think I even knew what a concussion was or what it felt like so I never treated it properly. I came to college in my freshman year and I got hit in the head probably almost as bad as this last one. I’ve had three recorded concussions.”

In the past, Littlefield said she would often play through injuries.

“I’ve always been the type of person who just pushed off an injury, whether it was my knee or my ankle, even my head,” Littlefield said. “My mom told me I should think of the bigger picture. I only have one brain, I’m trying to not rush this (concussion) no matter how bad I want to come back.”

Littlefield’s mom, Tammie Littlefield, insisted to her daughter that she let her body heal properly. 

“I told her to pay attention to what her body is telling her and take care of herself, her health comes first before anything else,” Tammie Littlefield said. “She’s going to have her brain the rest of her life so she’s got to take care of it. She’s on the road to recovery.”

The Sac State women’s soccer team has achieved much success in 2019, going on a 17-game unbeaten streak. The Hornets qualified for the Big Sky Championship, which served as one of the last opportunities for Littlefield to play this season. Littlefield was unsure of her status going in the postseason conference tournament but was hoping to play and was cleared on Nov. 2. 

Littlefield checked into the game against Eastern Washington in the 43rd minute and played until halftime, for a total of 171 seconds of playing time.

RELATED: Sac State women’s soccer team’s season ends in semifinals of Big Sky Championship

The Hornets went on to lose to the Eagles in double-overtime 2-1. The team may have lost, but Littlefield achieved a small moral victory being medically cleared to play before the season ended.