What You Need to Know About Concussions and Recovery
by Joy Stephenson-Laws
You may have seen or heard about the movie Concussion, a biographical movie about a doctor who studied and raised awareness about football-related head trauma. While performing an autopsy on a retired pro football player, Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith, discovered neurological deterioration similar to Alzheimer’s – red flag. He called the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy and published a paper in a medical journal about it. But as he saw more football players receiving the diagnosis, he had to speak up.
Since the movie, concussions have been somewhat of a popular and controversial topic for sports fans. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it’s certain that a better understanding of the issue will only help.
Know the basics about concussions
There are about 10 million head injuries per year in the United States, and about 20 percent are serious enough to cause brain damage, according to Harrison’s Internal Medicine, 2012. One type of head injury is a concussion – a form of minor traumatic brain injury. Concussion can be defined as any experience with forgetfulness or feeling stunned after trauma to the head. It sometimes causes a person to lose consciousness. Other times, the person is simply dazed and confused.
What causes a concussion?
During the impact, your brain – which is surrounded by cushioning fluid and membranes – hits the inside of your skull, causing bruising of the brain.
What’s the damage like after a concussion?
Most single, uncomplicated concussions do not produce any residual symptoms, but nevertheless, there may be chemical and structural changes in the brain, and sometimes symptoms do persist. These may include poor concentration, memory issues, irritability, depression, anxiety, dizziness and sensitivity to light and sound.
PET imaging scans may be used to detect who will have more long-term, ongoing symptoms. Biomarkers in the blood are currently being studied to predict which concussion victims will develop persistent post-concussion symptoms persistently.
What is recovery like?
After a concussion, your doctor will likely recommend you take a break from all activities. This means no sports, no school and no work. Patients are typically advised to slowly return to activities with a few hours of reading, for example, and walking instead of running for sports. If tolerated, daily hourly increments of increased activity can be tried until full activity is reached.
However, there is some new research that may challenge the status quo. A recent study published in the journal JAMA compared concussion symptoms among 5 to 18-year-olds who either participated in physical activity within a week of the concussion or rested. They found that the active ones were less likely to have persistent postconcussive symptoms at 28 days -- in fact, just 28.7 percent had symptoms, compared to 40.1 percent of those who rested. Quite a difference! The researchers concluded that participating in physical activity within a week of the injury may be beneficial for recovery in children and teens, but noted that “a well-designed randomized clinical trial is needed” to confirm.
What are some ways to address the symptoms of concussion?
· Rest up. It is important to rest and to follow your doctor’s instructions in order to recover.
· Give your brain nutritional support:
· Magnesium is known to help improve headaches and sleep, and is good for overall brain health.
· SAMe may help with depression.
· Vitamin B complex often helps with brain “fog.”
· Eating healthy with emphasis on brain-healthy foods like fish, walnuts, blueberries and broccoli can help, too.
· Get a nutrition blood test. Make sure your body is getting the amount of nutrients needed for healing.
If you’re interested in learning more about how minerals may help, consider reading Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient where an entire chapter is devoted to minerals and the brain.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here. Check out their new book Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.