Sports used to be the center of Lachlan Connors’ life, but after a series of concussions, he was left unable to compete in physical activities that involved contact. The high school junior from Colorado recently discovered musical talents that he says didn’t exist prior to his sports-related head injuries.
It all started back in the sixth grade, when Connors sustained his first concussion during an athletic competition. He thought nothing about his head injury, but his mother, Elsie Hamilton, decided to take her son to a neurologist, just to be on the safe side.
“I fell backwards and hit the back of my head on the ground,” Connors told CBS Denver. “I remember getting up and feeling really dazed. I didn’t really understand something bad had happened.”
After consulting with a specialist, Connors was cleared to play, and returned to recreational sports. However, a series of follow up blows to the head landed him right back in the hospital, this time for a couple of weeks. Connors began to experience epileptic seizures and intense hallucinations that were consistent with concussion symptoms.
“This was not a small injury for him,” Dr. Papadopoulos told CBS Denver. “The thought is just a theory, that this was a talent laying latent in his brain and somehow was uncovered by his brain rewiring after the injury.”
Even though Connors was told at such a young age that he could not play sports, he would soon discover that lacrosse and football did not define him. Connors put down his pads and cleats in favor of a piano, guitar, and other musical instruments that he has mastered.
He is now proficient in about 13 different instruments without ever having learned to read music. Elsie and Lachlan even say he tried to learn the piano before his injuries, but was unsuccessful. Now he says music is what gets him up in the morning.
“Clearly something happened in his brain and his brain had to recover from injury, and change happened,” Dr. Papadopoulos told CBS Denver. “And change may have uncovered this ability no one knew he had. I honestly think something got rewired. Something just changed, and thank God it did.”
Connors is not the only person to suffer a bump on the head and wake up with the ability to play music as if he were trained to. Derek Amato, also from Colorado, may be a musical genius today, but in 2006 he was left with 35 percent of his hearing, after injuring himself from diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic said a severe concussion changed the chemistry of Amato’s brain, leaving him with musical skills he did not know he possessed. Dr. Andrew Reeves said Amato was affected by acquired savant syndrome or a condition where “dormant savant skills emerge, sometimes at the prodigious level, after a brain injury or disease … where few such skills were evident before.”
"As I shut my eyes, I found these black and white structures moving from left to right, which in fact would represent in my mind, a fluid and continuous stream of musical notation," Amato explained. "My fingers began to scale the piano keys as if I had played all of my life. I can't explain the feeling of awe that overcame my entire being, although I can tell you the expression on my friend's face was enough to put us both in tears."