Nov 092004
 
Authors: Joelle Milholm

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

changed.”

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

memory problems.”

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

be.”

 

 

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