BY DR. LISA GOODMAN, DC, CCSP, CACCP
Nearing the end of the NFL season, we are talking more about concussion than ever have before. Obviously concussion in the NFL is a big topic and worth paying attention to. But this is information everyone should be comfortable with. It is not limited to those who play sports. Concussion can affect all of us. Common risk factors are sports, car accidents, bike or pedestrian accidents, military/combat or falling/other trauma. How much do you know about concussion? How to spot it, how to treat it & risks of under treating concussion?
What is a Concussion?
Concussion is an injury to the brain that alters the way the brain works because it causes significant inflammation to the brain. It can be caused by trauma or impact to the head, neck or body. Your head does not have to impact the ground or hard surface to suffer a concussion. You do not have to lose consciousness to suffer a concussion. The worst types of concussion typically occur from sideways blow to the head/ear/neck.
How to Tell if You or Your Child has a Concussion?
All concussions are not created equally, if you or your child sustains a head injury it is best to be evaluated by a qualified medical professional. Immediately after impact you may notice headache, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, vision changes, memory problems. Concussion symptoms are not always obvious right after impact and can worsen over a few days after injury. As symptoms worsen a patient may experience serious fatigue (sleeping more than usual), mental confusion, sensitivity to light or noise (ie. wearing sunglasses indoors), difficulty concentrating and remembering, stamina for work, reading, computer use. Some of these symptoms can appear severe or mild. Even a mild display of symptoms needs to be taken seriously.
How to Treat and Heal a Concussion
1. Rest. Cognitive and physical rest if symptoms are severe. Limiting exposure to computer, electronic devices and zero exposure to contact sports during this time.
2. Breaking News! Movement is good!! Begin movement and cardiovascular exercise as soon as you feel improvement in your symptoms. If ANY symptoms (including fatigue) develop during this phase, decrease activity. In addition to movement, cognitive exercise is also good – but again, if you experience any symptoms (including slow vision or fatigue) reduce your exposure to work/reading.
3. Nutrition. A skilled nutritionist or chiropractor can individualize a nutrition plan to help heal your concussion. Important things to note: increase protein, increase omega 3s, increase probiotics
4. Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers
5. Chiropractic care and management
Risk of Not Taking Concussion Seriously
If you do not treat concussion thoroughly you are at serious risk of permanent brain injury. A concussed athlete should NEVER continue playing in the same game OR on the same day. A good rule of thumb is never to return to play until you have been 100% free of symptoms for a period of 7 days. This is best evaluated by a medical provider such as a sports certified chiropractor or neurologist. It is important to note, that once a concussion is sustained and healed, an athlete is at great risk for future concussions. Even worse, if a player receives a second concussion prior to the first one healing, the dangers of ‘second impact syndrome’ can be catastrophic and cause irreversible brain damage or death.
Kids under age 14 are at the highest risk for concussion due to the nature of their brain tissue.
Girls and boys are equally at risk for concussion.
Strengthening neck muscles, proper training/coaching and proper equipment can help prevent concussion.