Sisters woman inspires legislation on concussions

Permanent brain damage changes Jenna Sneva's goals

Sisters grad inspires concussion bill

SISTERS, Ore. - Dozens of medals, a national championship, dreams of the Olympics -- a girl who began skiing before she could walk,  and a young woman who will never be the same again.

"My brain, technically, because of all the damage, is older," Jenna Sneva explained by Skype on Monday.

Sneva grew up in Sisters. A daredevil who loved speed and adrenaline, she began ski racing at Mt. Bachelor at the age of 6.

But her passion on the slopes came at a price -- Sneva suffered 12 concussions growing up, most from skiing.

Now 22, Jenna's inspiring legislators to pass a bill, dubbed "Jenna's Law." It's aimed at protecting kids who get concussions from sports -- a law that would require club sports coaches to get training on concussions.

The bill also would ban coaches and referees from letting athletes continue playing if they show signs of a concussion, and require athletes suffering from concussions to get a doctor's note before returning to play.

"It's going to empower the coaches, to be able to say no to the parents, no to the kids, that no -- they can't go back in," said Sneva's mother, Ronda Sneva.

It's something Ronda wishes doctors would have known when Jenna was little.

"During her brain mapping, they traced her first brain injury back to age 8," Ronda said.

Horrible news for a mother to hear, and looking back, Ronda says there were signs. Jenna changed from a gifted student to struggling with basic schoolwork. In middle school, she began struggling with anxiety and depression, and later, the worst pain in her life.

"My first migraine I had was Feb. 1, 2010 -- that put me in the hospital," Sneva said.

The last time Jenna skied was when she won nationals in skier-cross at age 19.

At 20, she was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and multiple permanent brain injuries.

Her future in skiing was over.

"It was a shock, you know -- I was being treated as a 60-year-old stroke victim," Sneva said.

But two years later, Sneva's doing much better, and has a new purpose: Fighting for Jenna's Bill, and spreading concussion awareness through her website,

She wants to save other kids from permanent brain injury, and is working hard to earn a bachelor's degree at Oregon State.

And although she won't ever get that Olympic medal, she's still her mother's hero.

"She's a champion," Ronda Sneva said. "I've never been more proud of her than watching her testify in front of the (Oregon) Senate, or giving these presentations at these conferences -- she's passionate about it."

Sneva recently traveled to Salem to share her story with senators. It was passed there and now is waiting for a floor session in the House.

Sneva is a junior at OSU and hopes to earn a degree in sports psychology, so she can help other athletes suffering from injuries, forced early retirement and the pressures of being an athlete.

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