Smart Health: Concussions — What parents and athletes must know

Extreme physical sports such as football, soccer (headers), lacrosse, hockey, equestrian, and any other sport where physical impacts occur repeatedly can increase the likelihood of injuries and concussions.

According to the CDC, children should engage in physical activity 60 minutes each day, and when increasing training, no more than 10 percent in intensity and time should be added each week. Recently in the U.S., there has been an increase in sports-related brain injuries, with a reported 136,000 each year in high school athletes alone. There are close to an estimated 3.8 million sports-related brain injuries each year overall in the US. This alarming trend is on the rise, due to the physicality of certain sports, which can cause concussions.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion is caused by a biomechanical impact or whiplash injury to the head, face, or neck which can cause a type of traumatic brain injury or neurological compromise and alter the way the brain works. The brain and its associated soft tissue can swell, leading to a variety of secondary conditions. Often times, there is no evidence of a concussive injury, with symptoms developing the same day or sometimes slowly over a period of weeks. A primary condition of abnormal neck misalignment and brain inflammation can occur.

Concussions are categorized by one or many of the following secondary conditions: headaches, neck pain, muscle spasms, vision changes, fogginess, poor concentration, sensitivities to lights and sounds, ringing in the ears, depression, nausea, seizures, disorientation, confusion, forgetfulness, memory loss, hesitated verbal responses personality differences, poor coordination and imbalance. Many athletes do not realize they have sustained a concussion, and continue to play, and some even go as far as refusing to consult with their parents and coaches. Alarming concussion statistics include:

  • A study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that more than 75 percent could identify a concussion, however only 54 percent said they would report their symptoms to their coach or parents.
  • 250,000 people under the age of 19 went to emergency rooms with concussions in 2009 compared with 150,000 in 2001.
  • In August, the National Football League (NFL) agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by more than 4,500 players and their families centered on what the league knew regarding the dangers of repeated hits to the head.
  • Researchers at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences showed that football players as young as 7 sustain hits to the head, with most occurring during practice. The force of those concussions absorbed is equivalent to those in high school.

When an athlete sustains a concussion:

  • The athlete should immediately cease playing in the particular game or practice.
  • The athlete should be accompanied and monitored by someone at all times.
  • Evaluation by a doctor, chiropractor, and/or neurological specialist.
  • When the athletes condition improves, and is cleared to exercise, the athlete should begin with light aerobic exercise only, with no physical drills with other players.
  • Full contact should only occur after doctor clearance.
  • If post-concussive symptoms reappear, the athlete should go back to the previous steps in this process.

Because most concussions are biomechanical in nature, it is important for the primary condition to be addressed: the misalignment of the upper spine, and inflammation of the brain and soft tissue. It is imperative that even as secondary conditions such as nausea, headaches, and dizziness cease, that the athlete address their primary condition. In our practice, we have specialized corrective restorative spinal equipment to address the misalignments in the cervical (neck) spine and correct its proper circular curvature. In addition, radiographs are important to determine the nature of the abnormal structure of the spine, as concussive conditions can reappear, weeks, and sometimes years later in life. CT scans can show imaging of the brain.

The take home message? Concussions are serious, and proactive steps must be taken with its treatment and caution and conservancy addressed before returning to sports. Follow up concussions can lead to more swelling of the brain and impairment, which often times can be irreversible. Strict guidelines should be followed, as many young athletes are so eager to return to play, that often they don’t communicate with respective parents and coaches.

Dr. Chad Laurence is a Doctor of Chiropractic and is one of less than 600 doctors world wide to be recognized as a distinguished fellow of Chiropractic Biophysics. His practice focuses on structural correction of the spine, nutrition, massage therapy, family care and pediatrics as well as support after personal injury and auto accidents. He is a prominent speaker and writer and he has been voted Best Chiropractor of Delaware numerous times by various publications. His practice is located just outside of Wilmington, Delaware, and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, at Corrective Chiropractic, 7503-A Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, Delaware. Contact him with questions or to schedule an appointment at 302-234-1115, drchad@correctivechiro.net, or on the web at correctivechiro.net. You can also follow Dr. Laurence on Twitter: twitter.com/drchadlaurence, and on Facebook: facebook.com/CorrectiveChiroHockessin.

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