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Using her injuries and experiences playing soccer for 14 years, Victoria Bellucci spoke at the White House and introduced the president of the U.S. at a summit held May 29 in which President Barack Obama called for more and better research into the effects and treatment of concussions in youth athletes.

Bellucci, 18, suffered five concussions within a year-and-a-half period during her high school and club soccer career. The graduating Huntingtown High School student shared her experiences and explained to summit attendees why she believes further education on the emotional and physical dangers of concussions is “vital.”

“Last summer was the worst period of my life,” Bellucci said in an interview Monday speaking about the time she got two concussions within a two-day period. “I had two [concussions] really quickly, and it took an emotional toll on me. Everything gave me headaches … I was really moody, and I wanted to feel like myself.”

In her speech, Bellucci discussed that recent period of her life.

“… The other side of my story began in my sophomore year, when I went up for a header during a game and got my first concussion,” Bellucci said. “Thinking it was only a headache, I played in a game the very next day, a mistake that many athletes make. A fall during that game caused another severe concussion and started my battle with head injuries, which I am still fighting today.”

Despite her injuries, Bellucci said her “passion for soccer has stayed constant.” During her high school and club soccer career, Bellucci led her team to three state championship appearances, four regional titles and three conference championships, and she was named Athlete of the Year. Last year, Bellucci signed with Towson University to receive a partial scholarship to play Division 1 collegiate soccer.

“I needed to put things into perspective,” Bellucci said Monday. “My life is more important than soccer.”

Bellucci said her decision to give up her scholarship was difficult, but she had the support of her parents.

“The realm of her emotions and symptoms she has to go through are very painful, and I had to contain it to the best of my ability because I didn’t want her to see the pain I was going through being unable to help her,” Gigi Bellucci, Victoria’s mother, said. “It was very hard for her to give up soccer because it is a piece of who she is.”

Gigi Bellucci said after what Victoria had been through, giving up the scholarship was truly a “no brainer.”

Following her high school graduation, Bellucci will attend Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., in the fall and will study exercise science or physical therapy.

Bellucci said panelists of professional athletes and doctors discussed the issue after Obama spoke, and agreed that information and education are important to prevent parents from pulling their kids out of team sports.

“We can’t be afraid to play or shy away from sports,” Bellucci said Monday. “We just have to be more prepared about it so we can play better. Soccer made me into the person I am today.”

Looking back on her experience at the White House, Bellucci said she is thankful for her past experiences, good and bad, that led her to this point where she can be an advocate for other athletes. She also feels like she has conquered her biggest fear — public speaking.

After having introduced the president at the White House, Bellucci said, “I can pretty much do anything.”

snewman@somdnews.com