Lacrosse player making strides after traumatic brain injury

A metro area standout lacrosse player has made incredible strides in his recovery from a traumatic brain injury.

On April 15, Noah Berger was critically injured when he was struck by a car near his Missouri university campus. He would spend more than three weeks in a medically induced coma before waking up. His parents and medical team report his progress since, has been amazing.

"I gotta learn how I get my shoulders back and kind of like re-walk because I was asleep for three-and-a-half weeks," Berger told FOX 9’s Paul Blume during a video Zoom interview Friday. "And now my muscles are all screwed up and stuff. So, walking kind of causes a little bit of pain."

Berger starred on the lacrosse field at Centennial High School in Circle Pines, and was playing as a freshman for NCAA Division One Lindenwood University when his life was turned upside down.

Berger said his goal is to get back on the field as soon as possible, "Lacrosse has been my biggest sport. I have played it since I was eight years old and I quit hockey for it, which is kind of a big deal in Minnesota."

"When this first happened, we had no idea if he would be able to," said Noah’s father, Jim Berger. "It was the furthest thing from our mind. But his neurosurgeon down in Saint Louis said, ‘you know what? You're going to get back on the field and I want to be at the first game.’"

Noah’s parents were in town for a Lindenwood game the weekend he was hurt. They immediately rushed to his hospital bedside having no clue if they would ever get their son back.

"So, the whole time he was sleeping, we had no idea what he was going to be like when he woke up," explained Noah’s mom, Denise Berger. "And just the different levels of what full recovery meant to the medical staff and what full recovery meant to us. And all we wanted was our son all the way back with us. Like all of Noah, full personality. That is what we wanted to come back to us."

In total, Noah spent 22 days in the coma to allow his brain time to heal. Friends, family and teammates visited throughout, praying for a miracle that eventually came. 

Since waking up, Noah’s recovery has taken off. He was recently flown to a specialty brain care center in Chicago, and is scheduled to return home to the Twin Cities in about a week.

He is doing so well in fact, sometimes his mom and dad need to remind him to slow down.

"It's not like a bone where it's broken. You can tell that hurts," said Jim Berger. "It [the brain] has got to be fixed. So, we are still trying to get across to him that he does have a brain injury. There are some things in there that need to fix themselves. He is way ahead of where anybody thought he would be, which is very fortunate. But he still does have, he has got a ways to go yet."

Added Denise, "He wants to run, but he needs to learn how to walk first. And because cognitively and personality wise, he is all back and doesn't really understand the full extent that you know what, your brain is trying to tell your feet to walk. And we need to go slow enough during therapy to make sure that you can have that full healing recovery."

Noah and his family are so grateful for all the love and support they are receiving from their community here at home. A GoFundMe to assist in Noah’s recovery has exceeded $1,000.

"I never knew I was going to get this much attention," said Noah, whose occupational therapy work included walking to a downtown Chicago Target store this week. "And the attention is kind of a pretty big deal to me. And I never really know how to react to it. So, this has been a really big deal and I really love all the people who have been helpful and have supported me."