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Olympic champion Alex Danson opens up on concussion struggles

The 2016 gold medallist has endured a 'nightmare' period in her life since the freak accident.

Great Britain and England captain Alex Danson has revealed how laughing at her fiance's joke led to the "most challenging" period of her life.

The 34-year-old is, somewhat bizarrely, one of three 2016 Olympic gold medallists who have been sidelined by concussion in the last 18 months.

However, while Nicola White and Shona McCallin sustained their injuries on the pitch, Danson's was purely accidental in a social situation while on holiday in Kenya with her boyfriend, coincidentally also called Alex.

"He told a joke and I flung my head forward in laughter and then flung it back pretty quickly and I hit my head flush on a concrete wall," Danson told BBC Sport.

"It was hard but equally it wasn't a car crash. I didn't fall from a great height. There was no seemingly huge trauma at the time but I knew something wasn't right.

"We were on holiday for another couple of days and getting home was a nightmare. I was very unwell. I had my hands on my head at the airport, I was crying.

"By the time I got home, I wasn't well. I had terrible headaches, light sensitivity, noise. I came back and I was in bed in a dark room for a month."

Six weeks after returning home she persuaded the team doctor she was fit enough for a team-bonding away day pottery painting.

"I went for an hour and all I remember was talking to my team-mate next to me and I lost the ability to speak. I just couldn't say any words," added Danson, who is scheduled to get married in September.

"Obviously I was frightened but I didn't want to cause a scene so I went back to painting my egg cup. I went home as soon as that session was done.

Alex Danson receives an MBE from the Duke of Cambridge
Alex Danson receives an MBE from the Duke of Cambridge (Jonathan Brady/PA)

"I was very sick. I don't remember much. I went to hospital, I was very unwell.

"The next few months were really challenging. I was in bed 24 hours a day. I could hardly walk to the bathroom.

"I couldn't bear light, sound, touch, anything. It was almost like my sensory dials had been whacked up. Even holding a conversation, I'd have to talk very slowly.

"I've improved hugely and headaches are my predominant problem. Light is still quite bright and noise can make me feel unwell."

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Alex Danson pictured in August 2015
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Danson 'lost memory and ability to read' after suffering head injury on holiday

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States20231659
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia12191344
Great BritainGreat Britain10101232
Today's Olympic highlights header

Monday's key events

· There are no Brits in the women's 100m hurdles final, but Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, fresh from breaking the Olympic record in the semis, will hope to pip world record holder Kendra Harrison to gold (3.50am)
· The women's 5000m final also has no Team GB representation, but two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya will be looking to add an Olympic gold to her list of honours (1.40pm)

· The women's skiff 49er FX (6.33am) and men's skiff 49er (7.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races

· A place in the women's gold medal match is up for grabs, starting with an all-North American semi-final between United States and Canada (9am)
· Australia, who edged past Team GB's in a seven-goal quarter-final thriller, take on Sweden in the second semi-final (12pm)

· The track cycling schedule gets underway, with Team GB holding a particular interest in the team pursuit qualifying. Laura Kenny is part of the women's team (7.54am), while the men's team includes Ed Clancy (9.02am)

· The Gadirova twins Jessica and Jennifer will both take part in the women's floor final as they look to add to their team bronze (9.57am)

· Newly-crowned European champion Emily Campbell flies the flag for Great Britain in the women's +87kg, but faces stiff competition for medals from China's Li Wenwen and New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard (11.50am)

· The women's hockey quarter-finals begin, with Team GB last up against Spain (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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