Concussions end Jake Deitchler’s career

The former Olympian retired after going 1-1 in dual meets this season.

Former Olympian Jake Deitchler makes the difficult decision to retire his wrestling career after speaking with a concussion specialist. Dietchler now plans to pursue his passion for wrestling from the angle of coaching.

Former Olympian Jake Deitchler makes the difficult decision to retire his wrestling career after speaking with a concussion specialist. Dietchler now plans to pursue his passion for wrestling from the angle of coaching.

Drew Claussen


Jake Deitchler is a former Olympian, three-time Minnesota State High School champion and now, at age 22, a former collegiate wrestler.

Deitchler chose to end his wrestling career after consulting with a sports concussion specialist and head coach J Robinson over the holiday break.

Deitchler and Robinson met with Dr. Michael Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to discuss his history with concussions, which have plagued him throughout his career. Deitchler got his first concussion when he was seven after he flipped a dirt bike, he said.

âÄúThe concussions went on and on and on until the last couple weeks here it got to the point where it was like âÄòWhatâÄôs more important long term?âÄôâÄù Deitchler said.

The decision ultimately came down to his health versus his career âÄî a decision Deitchler said was not easy.

âÄúItâÄôs hard when you do something your whole life and you do it every day. It becomes a big part of who you are,âÄù Deitchler said. âÄúI will always love the sport, and itâÄôs hard letting go and realizing that IâÄôm done and moving on, but IâÄôm also thankful enough that I still have my health.âÄù

Deitchler sat out all of last season with concussion problems before attempting a comeback this year. Alec Ortiz wrestled at 157 pounds when Deitchler was out earlier this season. Robinson said Ortiz will likely continue to fill in on the interim, but that he hasnâÄôt locked down the position.

âÄúYouâÄôre losing a potential All-American, so in your race to try and win the national tournament itâÄôs a big deal,âÄù Robinson said. âÄúRight now weâÄôve got some people that are filling in but theyâÄôre going to have to step up to get to where he was.âÄù

Deitchler defeated No. 9-ranked Dylan Alton in the GophersâÄô upset victory over Penn State earlier this season. He also won his weight class at the Bison Open and was ranked as high as No. 8 at 157 pounds. The win over Alton was DeitchlerâÄôs final career match.

Concussions have been prevalent in the major sports realm, with Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins notably struggling with them over the past couple years.

Reported traumatic brain injuries increased by 71 percent âÄî up from 5.5 percent of reported injuries to 9.4 percent âÄî in all sports- and recreation-related injuries from 2001 to 2009, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Additionally, 5.9 percent of the injuries in combative sports (which includes boxing, wrestling, martial arts and fencing) in that same time period were traumatic brain injuries.

The increased awareness of concussions is the result of a combination of factors. In addition to more reports of concussions, the severity is more widely recognized, according to Dr. Mark Carlson of Sanford Health in Bemidji.

âÄúI think there is a lot more awareness on concussions, and concussions are managed very differently today than they were even five years ago,âÄù he said.

Carlson said the biggest changes have been in recognizing that they are serious brain injuries. Athletes are now sitting out for extended periods of time âÄî like Crosby or Morneau âÄî or retiring, like Deitchler. In the past, athletes were encouraged to play through the dizziness or headaches if they could.

Carlson also struck down the notion that concussions are more severe in sports like football and hockey as opposed to wrestling and baseball because of the direct, hard hits that are taken.

âÄúI donâÄôt know if thereâÄôs a difference in the terms of the injury,âÄù Carlson said. âÄúAll concussions are brain injuries, and concussions unfortunately can occur from a direct head impact but they can also occur from an indirect force thatâÄôs transmitted to the head.âÄù

He said whether an athlete receives a check into the boards in hockey or withstands a particularly aggressive takedown, concussions can happen without direct impact to the head.

A hard hit to the shoulder can be just as dangerous as a direct hit to the head âÄúbecause the forces will sometimes be transmitted through the neck and into the head and the brain because it is able to move somewhat inside the skull,âÄù Carlson said.

Athletes âÄúcan experience concussion forces even though the skull itself wasnâÄôt struck against something,âÄù he said.

Deitchler was a spectator at the Gophers last home duel against Ohio State. He said watching the team wrestle was when it really hit him that he was done.

âÄúItâÄôs one of those things just like if somebody was to lose someone very close to them or something very special to them it kind of hits you in waves,âÄù Deitchler said. âÄúI can never really predict when itâÄôs going to hit me, but after watching the duel and watching the guys wrestle, it kind of hit me. It was hard to watch, but I like supporting them, and I want to be watching them.âÄù