Teenager Sustains Concussion, Becomes Musical Genius

Elise Solé

The human brain is a mysterious organ that scientists don't fully understand. One Denver teen has proved just how complex it is by becoming a musical prodigy after having sustained two concussions in childhood.

“Music is the thing that gets me up in the morning,” Lachlan Connors, a 17-year-old junior at Kent Denver High School, told Denver news station CBS4.

However, that wasn’t always the case. While Lachlan was growing up, his first love was sports — he even dreamed of becoming a professional lacrosse player — but in sixth grade, he fell and sustained a concussion during a lacrosse game. Though he felt a bit dazed at the time, a doctor gave him the go-ahead to continue playing. A short time later, Lachlan took yet another hit, and after being hospitalized for weeks and experiencing epileptic seizures and hallucinations, doctors advised him to discontinue contact sports.

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Lachlan was crushed. However he suddenly found himself with a talent for something very different: music, something he had never before had an interest in, perhaps because, well, he wasn't exactly good at it. “He really had no talent,” his mother, Elsie Hamilton, told CBS4 of her son as a child when it came to music. “I would say ‘Can’t you hear what’s next?’ with something like ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ or ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’ and he’d say, ‘No.’”

Yahoo Shine could not reach Lachlan or his mother for comment but, according to CBS4, he can now play at least 10 instruments, including the piano, the guitar, the harmonica, and the bagpipes (both Irish and Scottish). Also, since he can’t read sheet music, he plays by ear.

Erin Weaver, a certified brain injury specialist at the Brain Injury Association of New York State, tells Yahoo Shine that while she can't diagnose Lachlan without meeting him, she thinks two things are possible, based on his story. “Either these musical capabilities were dormant before the injury and he naturally discovered them during a time when he couldn’t focus on sports, or, the injury somehow rewired his brain to overcompensate for any capabilities he lost, if he did in fact, lose any.” 

Others have had remarkably similar experiences: In 2006, a Wisconsin man named Derek Amato sustained a brain injury after hitting his head in a swimming pool. He lost 35 percent of his hearing and suffered memory loss but told the "Today" show in 2012 that a few days after the accident, he felt an inexplicable desire to play the piano, despite having no musical training or ability sheet music. He now spends his days composing and playing classical music. And in 2002, after getting kicked in the head during a mugging, Jason Padgett, a cashier who is now 41, discovered he could visualize mathematical formulas and turn them into complex diagrams that he draws by hand. Both men were diagnosed with ”Acquired Savant Syndrome" a condition in which, after a head injury, the brain rewires itself in an attempt to compensate for the information it lost in the accident, subsequently demonstrating new capabilities.

Perhaps more startling than Lachlan's impressive new talents, says Weaver, is the fact that many kids get the go-ahead to continue playing sports after aconcussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed return-to-play laws (which vary slightly state by state) to protect kids with head injuries. Many include educating parents, coaches, and children about concussions; removing kids with head injuries from sports teams, and requiring permission from a health care provider to rejoin the team after a 24-hour period.

Lachlan seems happy with his life post-accident, telling CBS4, “I honestly think something got rewired. Something just changed, and thank God it did.”

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