Alex Danson-Bennett looking to the future after testing times and retirement
The Rio gold medallist has endured many challenges since suffering a mild traumatic brain injury on holiday in August 2018.
Olympic gold medallist Alex Danson-Bennett is ready to take motherhood in her stride having battled back from a career-ending head injury.
The 35-year-old was forced to quit Great Britain’s programme last February following an attempted comeback after sustaining a mild traumatic brain injury having hit her head on a wall on holiday in August 2018.
Symptoms, including debilitating headaches, light sensitivity and loss of speech, left her barely able to get out of bed and were the beginning of a gruelling, eventful and devastating couple of years which also saw her get married, suffer a couple of miscarriages, retire from hockey and learn sister Claire, a European triathlon champion, would be paralysed from the waist down after a cycling accident.
But now Danson-Bennett, who is also about to start a new role as ‘performance champion’ as part of Vitality’s three-year sponsorship of England and Great Britain women’s hockey, feels ready for whatever the world throws at her – starting with the imminent birth of her first child.
“We are very ready and very excited,” she told the PA news agency in an interview on the day her baby was due to be born.
“I am sure it will be tough but nothing can be as tough as a head injury when you don’t know when it ends – there is a start and end point to labour.
“I feel like both myself and my husband (also called Alex), with the injury to my sister, have had so much ‘unexpected’ over the last couple of years we can take anything now.
“We might be naively saying this but over two years he had to take me to the bathroom, had to do my nails, had to liaise with doctors, drive me to places.
“I literally couldn’t do anything – that was his practice run so with his help I’m confident we’ll do a good job.”
Danson’s long recovery was spent on their farm near the New Forest and she believes having access to the outdoors played a significant part in returning to health.
The Rio 2016 gold medal-winner still suffers headaches but country life has been a huge boost to her physical and mental wellbeing, helping her come to terms with retirement after an 18-year international career.
“I am a different human to two years ago, even a year ago,” she added.
“I still get headaches every day, I still have symptoms but I am able to manage them and I am able to live.
“When I was really poorly I could hardly get to the end of the garden. I used to go and sit and the stillness of the space helped calm down what is going on within your brain.
“I’ve been very lucky I’ve had that space to recuperate.
“When I first hit my head, my thought process was about trying to get back to playing hockey but when I realised my health had deteriorated quite a lot at about six weeks I realised my priority had to be my health.
“Unknowingly I transitioned away from the sport. I moved in with my husband, was on the farm, I was not at Bisham Abbey (England Hockey’s training base) and was not really able to communicate with anyone as I was so unwell.
“I tried to return last January because I wanted to finish on my own terms but it became apparent I was not well enough, hence my retirement.
“I’ll now be using my experiences from sport to support the businesses which work with Vitality in the health and wellbeing space, particularly at the moment as people are working from home.”