After fighting through the trials and tribulations of multiple
head injuries, Ashley Venekamp’s career as a basketball player at
CSU is over. Venekamp, a senior guard from Fort Collins High
School, was forced to take medical hardship and leave the team
after suffering the latest hit in a series of concussions dating
back to 2002.
“It has been my dream to play college basketball ever since I
was little,” Venekamp said. “I only got to play one year and it is
really hard to know that was it. This was a really hard decision to
make, but I feel like I made the right one.”
During her freshman year in 2001, Venekamp played in 29 games
under former coach Tom Collen. She averaged 3.3 points, 2.2
rebounds and hit 17 3-pointers. In a game against Louisville in
December, Venekamp recorded a career-best of 16 points.
Then in her sophomore season, Venekamp played in 15 games,
starting in five, before suffering her first concussion. More were
soon to follow.
“I probably had five or six (concussions) during a four-month
period and I was really out of it,” Venekamp said. “I had memory
problems, my head hurt all the time and my personality
With the severity of her concussion effects increasing, Venekamp
was sidelined her junior year to recover with the hopes that she
would return her senior year.
“We knew the biggest challenge was going to be coming back and
be able to play at the Division I level after being out for so
long,” said CSU head coach Chris Denker.
Venekamp was given medical clearance to resume playing in July
and she started training again. When the team began practicing for
the 2004 season, Venekamp appeared ready.
“She was in phenomenal condition, she was phenomenal in the
weight room and got herself ready to play,” Denker said. “She was
making strides that we didn’t think she would make. We started
getting really excited for her senior year.”
Then, all of the excitement came crashing down. At practice two
weeks ago, Venekamp took a hit to the jaw, but the seriousness of
the hit was not known immediately.
“I took an elbow to the jaw, but I didn’t think too much of it,”
Venekamp said. “Then later that night, I felt out of it and I knew
I had another concussion. I talked to a couple of doctors and they
told me that I had concussion symptoms again.”
Fearing the one-and-a-half-year recovery period she faced the
last time, Venekamp was forced to make a decision.
“Once you get one concussion, you are more predisposed to
getting more. I didn’t want to sit out anymore,” Venekamp said. “I
had decided before the season started that I would quit if I got
another one. I couldn’t risk it anymore. I still have headaches and
Venekamp ends her tenure on the team averaging three points and
2.3 rebounds per game. She totaled 24 3-pointers, a .775 free-throw
percentage, 103 rebounds, 51 assists, 21 steals and 135 points.
Denker said Venekamp will be missed and has invited her to stay
as involved with the team as she wants.
“She is part of this team,” Denker said. “She always will