When I was in school, I loved studying neurology. As hard as it was to learn, it was, and still is, one of my favorite subjects. I have learned a lot about the brain over the years. I have studied all the pathways of the brain, the neurological pathologies and what parts of the brain they affect, how they affect different parts of the body and why, what symptoms they cause and how to diagnose them. I have held brains in my hands and examined too many cross-sections of the brain and spinal cord to count. At one time, like all my classmates, I could identify where each slice of the brain and spinal cord came from. So, I know a thing or two about brains.
When I learn about the brain and its functions these days, it is usually in the form of the brain in relation to a pathology or concussion. And what surprises me, even today, is that most of us – lay people and those of us in healthcare – have limited knowledge of concussions. In fact, a paper put out by the Mayo Clinic in Dec 2017 revealed that only 1/3 of high school athletes, high school coaches and parents of athletes know that a concussion is a brain injury. This may not surprise you, but it sure surprised me! I thought everybody knew that. But I guess not.
But all that is changing. The more we study concussions, the more we are learning about them and how devastating the effects of a concussion can be on a person’s overall health and quality of life, in both the short term and the long term. Ever since Dr. Bennet Omalu’s study on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in football players, on which the book “Concussion” was based, was published in the journal Neurosurgery in 2005, the science world has been scrambling to learn and understand as much as we can about concussion. The good news is as we gain a better understanding about concussions, we are developing new and better ways to prevent and treat them.
And yet new findings are being discovered, but if these discoveries are not making it to the news, then most people don’t know about them. So, for the purpose of becoming better informed, I’d like to share with you a thing or two that you may not know about concussions:
- A concussion is defined as a head injury from direct or indirect forces, with or without loss of consciousness leading to symptoms immediately after the injury or within weeks or months after the injury. Direct force would be a blow to the head, collision, hitting the head. Indirect force could be form a whiplash or perhaps even a hard blow to the body, because all the fluid inside the body has to disperse somewhere.
- A concussion can happen in any sport or recreational activity.
- Current concussion management is for a doctor to re-test an athlete before clearing them to resume practicing and playing their sport again. However, even though clinical tests may show improvement, many athletes may feel “off” for months or even years after a concussion. Studies show higher rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide among people who have suffered a concussion.
- A concussion occurs at an average of 92 g-force. This is equivalent to smacking your head against a wall at 20 MPH. For comparison, a high g-force roller coaster has a g-force of 3.5 – 6.3 g. A turn in a fighter jet produces between 9 – 12 g. Astronauts experience a maximum of 3 g during rocket launch.
- The average high school football player takes an average of 650 impacts per year, with a maximum of over 2,000/year. Not all of these are occurring at 92 g-force, but studies suggest that enough cumulative “subconcussive” head impacts could cause long term health problems. A study out of Italy found that there was a higher incidence of ALS among former soccer players who had at least one head injury. Some hypothesize that this is due to the repetitive neuro-trauma that occurs from heading the ball.
- Over 3.8 million concussions are reported every year. I wonder how many are not being reported?
- Over 500,000 kids report to the ER every year with a concussion.
- 47% of concussions occur between the ages of 12 – 15. At these ages, the skull is not fully formed and the supportive muscles of the neck are pretty weak.
- In the NFL, 92% of players return to practice/play 7 days after a concussion.
- Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates nerve cells and speeds up the information being transmitted from one nerve cell to another. Studies show that myelin loosens around the nerve cells two weeks after a concussion and does not return to normal until two months after a concussion. And football players are back out on the field after 7 days?! Yikes!
- Blood flow and glucose to the brain are both decreased 7-10 days after a concussion. Keep in mind that glucose is the brain’s fuel. If it is not getting to the brain, how is the brain functioning properly?
- Once you receive a concussion, you are 1.5 times more likely to receive a second one. After the second concussion, you are 3 times more likely to receive a 3rd. Well this makes sense if you read the previous statistic about lack of blood flow and glucose to the brain. If the brain is not receiving nutrients and oxygen (remember, blood carries oxygen), it is going to have delayed processing and reaction times.
- Depending on the sport, women are 2-3x more vulnerable to concussion than their male counterparts. This may be due to such factors as neck muscle strength and hormone levels at the time of the head injury.
Up until recently, treatment options for concussion were limited. Most concussion patients were told to stay in a dark room, limit their TV and electronics usage and wait it out for a period of time before returning to their doctor for clearance. Fortunately in recent years, treatment options are improving. Some concussion patients are being treated with nutritional and brain-specific rehab protocols.
Another option for concussion symptoms is a revolutionary therapy called Matrix Repatterning. Matrix Repatterning is a gentle, yet powerful, hands-on therapy that detects and releases restrictions that have built up in the deeper, denser framework of the body, and allows the patient to resume normal function again. It has proven very successful in treating concussion and post-concussive syndrome. In his book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”, Dr. Norman Doidge states:
“I view it as prudent to have a Matrix Repatterning assessment after a blow to the head….Observing such cases has led me to hope that one day Matrix Repatterning will be routinely applied in hospital emergency settings.”
The hopeful take away from all of this is that every day we are learning more about concussions. And because we are learning more about the causes and outcomes of concussions, we are developing new and better treatments for concussions. So there is hope for those suffering post-concussive symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from post-concussive symptoms, seek treatment. Not just sitting in a dark room avoiding electronics. Real treatment.
Dr. Clare Larkin, DC, CMRP is one of only 9 Certified Matrix Repatterning Practitioners in the United States. She maintains a practice in New Jersey, where she treats not only concussion patients, but people suffering from many unresolved injuries and symptoms. For more information, go to www.DrClareLarkin.com and www.MatrixRepatterning.com. Dr. Larkin can be reached at 908-930-0628 and firstname.lastname@example.org.