High school soccer player Rueben Nsemoh spent several days in a coma after getting concussed by a kick in the head in September. When he finally woke up, he was speaking Spanish fluently, a language he’d never before spoken, WSB-TV Atlanta reported.
Nsemoh was playing goalie for a national team based near Atlanta when he dove for the ball and another player kicked him in the head, resulting in his third concussion. His coach told WSB-TV he was knocked unconscious and temporarily stopped breathing. He spent days in intensive care at Atlanta’s Medical Center before waking up with a brand new ability.
Being able to speak a new language after a concussion is a documented medical condition called Foreign Language Syndrome (FAS). It can occur after someone has been knocked unconscious. As the brain rewires itself in the wake of an accident like a concussion, it sometimes becomes confused, resulting in unusual abilities like fluency in a never before spoken language.
A more common manifestation occurs as FAS, in which people awaken from brain trauma to find themselves speaking in their native tongue but with a foreign accent. FAS can end quickly, as was the case with Nsemoh, or last for long periods of time. There have been roughly 100 cases of the syndrome and there is no known cure.
While Nsemoh briefly picked up a new skill, his condition after three concussions is unstable. “Sometimes I daze out,” he told WSB-TV. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not here, but I am.”
Though he is out of the hospital, his seizures have not stopped, according to the GoFundMe page set up by the soccer team’s manager to pay for his medical expenses.
High school athletes take longer to recover from concussions than college or professional athletes, according to the Sports Concussion Institute. They also experience greater neurological disturbances and more severe symptoms. Long-term effects of multiple concussions include chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease.