That’s right, I’ve been a hardcore athlete since I was a kid and have done some pretty extreme things in my life, but what nearly took me out was falling while putting on pajamas in my bedroom. I was gearing up to compete in my first bodybuilding competition at the time, but I cracked my head so hard that I was suddenly sidelined with life-threatening injuries including a hairline skull fracture, a brain bleed and a blood clot in the back of my head known as a sinus thrombosis. My injuries demanded several months of daily injections of blood thinners, so strenuous activity was a no-go because it could cause another brain bleed.

I built up my strength enough to get back to a six-days-a-week workout routine within six weeks of a clear MRI in February 2018. Four months later, I was up on the competition stage, placing second in two of my three events.

You can read more about my story at https://www.uchealth.org/today/traumatic-brain-injury-kept-bodybuilder-offstage-but-not-for-long/.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/ws2anfmrq6f41.jpg

Edit: Thank you all for the questions! You can continue to follow my journey on Instagram @cass.witt1212

Comments: 677 • Responses: 65  • Date: 

2shae_2shae1964 karma

Have you ever worn fuzzy socks again?

uchealthorg2077 karma

Cassandra: Yeah, I actually wear fuzzy socks around my house all the time.

jcgam985 karma

We treated you at my hospital. What was the experience like? Any positives/negatives to share?

uchealthorg883 karma

Cassandra: Literally nothing but positive. I was on a first-name basis with many of my doctors and nurses and many of them came to talk to me about fitness and nutrition.

TechFiend72470 karma

Has it impacted your emotional state?

There have been a number of people in online support forums talking about TBI causing various emotional stability issues afterwards.

Curious as to your experience.

uchealthorg763 karma

Cassandra: Depression was a really big thing. I went through two months of being in a really dark place. Anytime I had a CAT scan or an MRI I thought I would end back up in the hospital or be benched again. Anxiety was at an all-time high. When I went to pick up a prescription, I couldn't even remember my phone number. I had no patience for loud noises, and it still affects me now. When it comes to your brain, it's like a ticking time bomb.

tinicutie457 karma

What motivated you to get back into bodybuilding after suffering an injury so close to your first competition?

uchealthorg479 karma

Cassandra: Mainly because I wanted to finish what I started. It had been my goal to bodybuild for the last 3 years and I wanted to get on that stage.

coryrenton229 karma

would a carpet or rug have made a difference in terms of absorbing impact?

uchealthorg306 karma

Cassandra: It would have; I tried to convince my husband to put carpet into my house. Hardwood is very unforgiving.

coryrenton29 karma

do you think contest prep played any factor into the severity of the fall?

uchealthorg71 karma

Cassandra: No, because at that time I was on a high-calorie diet so I wasn't in any type of deficit.

M27735859165 karma

what were some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome during recovery just to get back to the way your life was before?

uchealthorg235 karma

Cassandra: The biggest challenge was getting past everything mentally. Along with injury came depression and anxiety. Getting into a bodybuilding mindset was the biggest struggle.

M2773585966 karma

what helped you get through the depression and anxiety and ultimately get you back into the bodybuilding mindset?

uchealthorg107 karma

Cassandra: Honestly, the bodybuilding team and my husband were a really good support system.

RocketLauncher21 karma

Damn so that means the thing that helps you the most mentally wasn’t an option for a long time (since you weren’t allowed to do it while recovering). Did you have other coping ways? Glad you are off the bench!

uchealthorg43 karma

Cassandra: Honestly no. I would definitely suggest to other people to have other coping mechanisms because I didn't have any. I wish I would have had other tools to use.

Throwawayunknown5597 karma

Have your socks tried to kill again?

Seriously, glad to hear you're able to get back to training. Any lingering effects? I had a friend of mine get a head injury in a motorcycle accident, and she was incoherent for weeks, and still has some memory issues.

uchealthorg137 karma

Cassandra: Socks have not attacked again. Short term memory and sensitivity to loud noises are the only lingering effects for me.

GOPJay75 karma

How many calories were you eating and of what, before your injury? Did your diet change after it?

uchealthorg174 karma

Cassandra: So before the injury, I was eating around 3,000 calories which is partially what stuck me in the hospital for so long. My metabolism was running so high, I kept burning through the medication. After the injury, I just went back to intuitive eating, not a bodybuilder diet. I just had to keep an eye on my sodium.

smartwatersucks73 karma

For someone who isn't bodybuilding but getting in shape, if you were building a home gym what 5-10 pieces of equipment would be the most useful?

uchealthorg122 karma

Cassandra: Squat rack, cable pull-down, bench, free weights, TRX straps, a yoga mat.

ruffus4life30 karma

what do you like about the trx straps the most?

uchealthorg52 karma

Cassandra: They're very versatile and you can hit almost any body part. They're also really easy to carry around with you. My favorite exercise with those is pikes.

dariummm873 karma

Isn't it weird how some people can fall of cliffs with only a few scratches but a pair of fuzzy socks can almost kill you?

uchealthorg85 karma

Cassandra: When it comes to head injuries, you can fall from a foot above or several stories and the results could potentially be the same.

M2773585961 karma

How has your injury affected how you currently train?

uchealthorg99 karma

Cassandra: It doesn't anymore at all, but when I first got back into training I had migraines and dizziness all the time.

ICanHasACat60 karma

What scares you more, Ronda Rousey in an octagon or a pair of comfortable socks on hardwood?

uchealthorg117 karma

Cassandra: Ronda Rousey. I've already taken on socks. Do not put me in a cage with that beast.

pedrotheterror51 karma

Why is UC Health the one answering?

uchealthorg45 karma

UCHealth: Here at UCHealth we believe in celebrating extraordinary. We think Cassandra's story is extraordinary and wanted to share it with the world. We are facilitating the r/IAMA on her behalf and she is the one answering. UCHealth is here to help with any medical-related questions.

FaithfulNihilist45 karma

Have you noticed any lingering effects of the brain injury? Did anything change as a result like personality, temper, ability to concentrate on a task, sleep, mood, etc?

uchealthorg66 karma

Cassandra: Short-term memory and sensitivity to loud noises are the only lingering effects for me. No effects on sleep, mood, or concentration.

pamajo1717 karma

What part of your brain was injured?

I was in a car accident in 2014 and have short term and working memory issues and I have a hard time with double concentration like writing while someone is speaking or listening to music and studying, college was a bitch to finish lol

uchealthorg31 karma

Cassandra: I believe it was the right occipital lobe. It's responsible for vision interpretation, which explains the vision issues and dizziness.

memertooface30 karma

Can you explain how you fell in more detail? I just can't imagine cracking my head open putting on pajamas...

uchealthorg51 karma

Cassandra: I was wearing fuzzy socks on a hardwood floor and putting on my pajamas. My foot got caught and I just fell. There was nothing to grab on to, I was standing in the middle of the room. I now always lean against the bed frame when I put my pajama pants on.

coloradoroller18 karma

What's your favorite lift or exercise? What's your least favorite?

uchealthorg43 karma

Cassandra: Deadlifts are most definitely my favorite. I absolutely hate squats.

highdeserttrash17 karma

During your recovery, did anything people do stand out as particularly helpful or harmful? Was there anything your medical providers or loved ones did or said that was notably impactful?

uchealthorg35 karma

Cassandra: In the world of bodybuilding, even though it wasn't directly related to TBI, I heard a lot of stories of people coming back from injury. That was really helpful. The medical providers made it really clear what the possible consequences of going back to weight lifting were before I was released. They put the fear of God in me.

coloradoroller14 karma

How have you had to tweak your nutrition since the accident in terms of specific food or nutrients? Have you had to totally cut anything out? Have you added anything that's helped with symptoms? Do you take any CBD supplements?

uchealthorg17 karma

Cassandra: I do not take CBD supplements. For me, the only thing I had to tweak was my sodium intake.

MisterSixfold5 karma

What do you mean by tweak? Less or more sodium?

uchealthorg14 karma

Cassandra: More sodium. I struggle with low blood pressure.

TwoWheelAllTheThings12 karma

I've been in an accident that sidelined me from training for almost 3 months, and I have found it difficult to get back into that training mindset to try and get back into the rhythm of things, especially considering all of my numbers (weights, PRs, etc.) were for someone who wasn't injured. How did you start going back to training, mentally?

uchealthorg16 karma

Cassandra: For me going back to training wasn't the hard part. I had been waiting to do a bodybuilding competition so I had been chomping at the bit. The hard part was that I had lost a lot of progress so I had to go back to square one.

taco_bout_fit12 karma

What advice do you have for people who want to get into bodybuilding but don't know where to start?

uchealthorg21 karma

Cassandra: Get a really good coach. My coach took me from day one to placing second in my very first show. I found my coach through the "NPC Colorado" Facebook page, you can ask anything there and the community will help you out.

hasanyoneseenjoe11 karma

Was there any sort of support system of the bodybuilding community? It seems like TBI support groups would be more prevalent in football or hockey, but I'm curious if one exists and how it could be different.

uchealthorg18 karma

Cassandra: No formal support in the bodybuilding community for me, or at least I never looked for it. Bodybuilding isn't a high-impact sport. It makes sense for the sports you mentioned, but it's not very prevalent in bodybuilding. I found support through my own family and friends.

NeedzRehab10 karma

Would you rather fight 100 horse sized socks, or one sock sized horse?

uchealthorg30 karma

Cassandra: Sock-sized horse for sure.

shakinjakke8 karma

A big fear I have is a loved one hitting their head and having a serious injury while not realizing it. Did you know right away that your injury was serious?

uchealthorg17 karma

Cassandra: My husband and I knew that something was wrong, it felt like I was walking in a funhouse. We went online and researched concussions, and it was a small percentage of people that suffer from internal brain injuries after suffering a concussion. When the dizziness didn't go away the next day, we went into the ER.

plh4lisa8 karma

Was there anything in particular from bodybuilding training that helped more than anything else during your recovery?

uchealthorg13 karma

Cassandra: It gave me a goal to work toward. I had a reason to hop back on the wagon. I know a lot of people have a hard time coming back after they've been benched due to injury.

skybrocker7 karma

I was injured in a hockey game coming up on 2 year anniversary of my TBI with no improvement in my left hand/arm. Starting to lose hope. Did you have any lasting/lingering physical effects you felt hopeless about?

uchealthorg8 karma

Cassandra: I am really sorry to hear about that. I was one of the lucky ones and don't have any lasting physical injuries. Follow up with your doctor to see if there are any other treatment options.

Overtly_Covert_16 karma

I completed my first year of training last October then shortly after broke my right humerus in a spur of the moment arm wrestling match. I live a very tame life and I typically don't take part in any extreme sports or activities. Bodybuilding is therapeutic for me and helps me manage my depression and has helped me develop a sense of competence. I love what it has done for me. I was devastated, and the realization that I was not going to be able to train the same way set in immediately. I've let myself go to say the least since, but I want to bounce back. I still am recovering. Your story is inspiring considering you came back from such a severe injury and I have been wondering what has helped others overcome similar setbacks. I'm an introvert and am not part of any community really.

What do you think contributed to your ability to get through your various challenges and begin your bodybuilding journey again?

uchealthorg5 karma

Cassandra: I am sorry that you broke your arm. The biggest help was my bodybuilding team and my family. Having a great support system was so important.

LlamaCowMeow6 karma

What was the hardest part about getting back into lifting weights?

uchealthorg12 karma

Cassandra: Starting back at square one and seeing all my progress be lost due to being benched for three months. I've read that one loses 6% skeletal muscle mass for every day you're in a hospital bed with no movement.

no_hot_peppers5 karma

What advice do you have for the younger generations of body builders as they start developing their passion for the sport?

uchealthorg11 karma

Cassandra: Don't put anything in your body without doing your own research. A lot of bodybuilders hop on gear into their bodies to place well. I would avoid that and hire a coach that knows what they are doing.

Rosebudteg5 karma

Did you get rid of the hardwood and put in carpet after the recovery?

uchealthorg5 karma

Cassandra: Not yet.

justscottaustin5 karma

Do you still wear fuzzy socks?

Because? I kinda feel like that is a "hard stop."

uchealthorg9 karma

Cassandra: Yeah, I actually wear fuzzy socks around my house all the time.

Brentrance4 karma

Do you still have brain fog and dizziness? I got a tbi and it took a good 3 years for it all to get back to normal. The brian fog was the last symptom to go and it was horrible. I thought it would never end, but it did.

uchealthorg5 karma

Cassandra: That's a hard question to answer. I do get brain fog quite often, but I don't know if it's TBI or just a brain fart. It's hard to differentiate it from a symptom of the injury or just something typical.

Hegulator4 karma

Favorite lift (and why is it the trap bar deadlift)? Least favorite lift?

uchealthorg7 karma

Cassandra: I like the barbell deadlift the best, I don't do trap bar deadlifts.

ScaryPillow4 karma

Do you feel any permanent consequences from the brain injury?

uchealthorg7 karma

Cassandra: Short-term memory and sensitivity to loud noises are the only lingering effects for me. No effects on sleep, mood, or concentration.

Norgeroff4 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

uchealthorg10 karma

Cassandra: Blue....?

callowhill33 karma

Did the brain shift due to the injury? Was there any blunt force trauma? Did you go into a coma?

uchealthorg6 karma

Cassandra: I did not go into a coma. I did have blunt force trauma. I don't know about my brain shifting, that's more of a medical question.

uchealthorg6 karma

UCHealth: We will reach out to Cassandra's docs and follow back up with an answer.

doctorcoolcat3 karma

Hi cassandra. You're an absolute inspiration and it's so amazing to hear you're getting back into doing what you love!

From working in a career supporting people with TBI, I learnt that fatigue was such a life changing effect of a brain injury, how did you manage the fatigue from your injury when slowly getting back into exercise?

I'd love to share your story with some of my clients. You're an absolute inspiration!

uchealthorg6 karma

Cassandra: Thank you so much that is definitely appreciated. Fitness in itself is the best way to combat fatigue anyway so that should be your first line of defense. Take small steps. Manage stress and don't overwhelm yourself. I take cortisol supplements to help with that.

LordFluffy3 karma

Who are some bodybuilders you admire or that inspire you?

uchealthorg7 karma

Cassandra: Danny Schofield is the biggest influential bodybuilder in my life. She is a three-time Olympian and she recently moved to Colorado. Three years ago it was on my bucket list to just meet her and now we are friends. Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger is, of course, a huge influence in the bodybuilding world.

red5252 karma

During your recovery, while in the hospital/rehab, what activity (if there were any) were you happiest to be able to do again (aside from the bodybuilding)?

Second, do you feel like you had a turnaround point during your recovery? Like where you felt like you knew you would be able to make it out okay?

uchealthorg4 karma

Cassandra: Taking walks with my son and to not struggle with migraines was great. When my last MRI in February didn't show anything, I felt I was done.

Back2school922 karma

What was your most effective way to cut? And how did you pass over plateaus?

uchealthorg4 karma

Cassandra: The most effective way to cut is to make sure you are in a healthy calorie deficit (200-300 deficit). Also making sure that you don't exceed 30 minutes of cardio. HIIT cardio is always recommended over steady state.

jbwarnken2 karma

Sorry to hear of your story. So what is the prognosis? What are you doing now?

uchealthorg3 karma

Cassandra: As far as the prognosis, I've made a full recovery. I'm back to bodybuilding and preparing for the next state show and hopefully a national one.

GrilledBurritos2 karma

How do you deal with it mentally now? I'm sure you still wish you were at the physical state you were before your TBI. What makes/made you want to push through mentally and how do/did you convince yourself getting better was worth it?

uchealthorg5 karma

Cassandra: I am actually in better condition now than when I started. I am prepping for my second show now. I had a goal of competing for three years and you don't just give up on a goal because of a small roadblock.

___Mister___1 karma

I experienced a TBI when I was rear ended by a drunk driver in January 2018. I went through almost a year of physical therapy having to retrain part of my body's sensory/perception/motor skill system (I can't remember the name of it). It was very rough going and it's left me with some long-lasting, probably permanent affects.

Did you have to go through anything similar as a part of your recovery? Did you have any issues with movement, depth perception, visual tracking?

uchealthorg2 karma

Cassandra: I'm so sorry to hear about your experience, that must be devastating. I was one of the lucky ones and didn't have any lasting physical issues.

wlane131 karma

You are a pretty girl. You are a female bodybuilder. There are certain stereotypes of Female Bodybuilders that I am sure are unfair and untrue. Did you ever fear losing your femininity to Bodybuilding? And do men perhaps shy away from women bodybuilders for fear that their girl might actually be stronger than they are?

uchealthorg12 karma

Cassandra: You don't lose your femininity unless you're on some pretty hefty anabolic steroids. That doesn't just happen from lifting weights. I'm sure men do, but considering I am happily married, it's not a concern of mine.

Beezus1451 karma

Do you still have those same fuzzy socks?

uchealthorg3 karma

Cassandra: Yes, I still have the culprits.

antony_r_frost1 karma

If you could only train two movements for the rest of your life what would they be?

Good luck in your bodybuilding endeavours and I hope your lingering symptoms clear up soon.

uchealthorg2 karma

Cassandra: That's a tough one. Probably deadlift because that lights up your entire posterior chain. I would also say some other foundational push movement, like military press or bench press.

ScotsScots1 karma

I see you mention sensitivity to loud noises as a lasting symptom, do you know what's caused that? I'm interested in neurology and I'm curious what's happened to cause that. Sneaky second question, I'm into bench press, but I'm on the verge of giving it up as my wrists (with good form and wraps) just aren't for push exercises, any suggestions for replacing bench press?

uchealthorg2 karma

UCHealth: We will consult our experts and get back to you with an answer.

uchealthorg2 karma

Cassandra: Dumbbell bench press is a lot easier on your wrists and shoulder rotation.

regalrecaller1 karma

Do you have any hope for neuro regeneration? Is it something you are aware of?

uchealthorg1 karma

Cassandra: I'm not aware of it but will look into it.

scorpioskillz1 karma

Would you rather train in crocs or fuzzy socks for the rest of your life?

uchealthorg2 karma

Cassandra: You will never catch me dead in Crocs.

uchealthorg2 karma

Cassandra: :)

GrossClyde-14 karma

How do you live a fulfilling life merely picking things up and putting them down? Like did you have a real job?

uchealthorg10 karma

Cassandra: Any athlete finds fulfillment in their sport. However, I am full-time personal trainer and fitness coach, so I do help others live a healthy and fit life.