A lot has been made over the last decade about the hazards of concussions (and rightfully so). When the brain smacks into the skull with force, it should be obvious that this isn’t a good thing and it needs to be taken seriously.
Most of the attention around concussions has been dedicated to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). If you’ve watched Will Smith’s movie “Concussion” or followed the NFL over the past few years, you’ve definitely heard of it, (that's not what this article is about).
In CTE a protein called Tau slowly builds clusters in the brain, killing brain cells. It’s been linked to cognitive problems, personality changes, and behavioral changes like aggression and depression.
But the development of CTE is a long term process. And for us human beings, it’s harder to make decisions that are best for our long term health and well-being (just think about how much discipline it takes to routinely put money aside in retirement savings, knowing you could go on a tropical vacation with it instead…)
So let’s talk about the short term risks with concussions - the ones that haven’t been featured in a movie or talked about on Sportscenter. If you’re only focused on the here and now versus what your brain looks like 30 years from now (what’s wrong with you anyways?? Take your brain health seriously!), these are the risks that will matter to you.
Even though they can completely DERAIL an athletic career or workout regimen, they aren’t getting the same attention as CTE.
So what is it?
Those who suffer a concussion are at least 38% more likely to suffer a lower extremity injury within the next year .
And some studies have concluded the risk is even higher (up to nearly 3x more likely to suffer a lower extremity injury! [2,3]).
What’s this mean? That a concussion can have lingering effects LONG AFTER the initial symptoms are gone and you’ve been cleared by your physician or athletic training staff for return to activity.
And that these effects can keep you off the field or out of the gym for significant lengths of time.
In many cases, those who return to activity after concussions continue to have decreased dynamic postural control, motor control, balance, and ability to effectively coordinate movement .
The differences are so subtle that often times it’s not even noticeable, but they are there, and pose a risk for future injury.
We see this retrospectively all the time at Premier. A client comes in reporting an extensive history of injuries (they just keep getting hurt time and time again…) or chronic pain that won’t go away no matter what they do.
After thoroughly talking through the client's injury history, this question is eventually asked:
“Have you ever experienced a head or neck injury?”
In many cases, the answer is something along the lines of:
“Well, there was this one time that caused a lot of concussion symptoms, but it wasn’t that serious and went away after a few days.”
When the client compares the date of the concussion with when the string of injuries or chronic pain started, it becomes clear that the concussion may have been much more significant than originally thought.
From there, our unique neurological communication assessments reveal that the significance of the concussion is even more apparent – those who have suffered a concussion often fail to pass the most basic assessments.
So what does all this mean?
1. Take concussions seriously! They not only impact your long term brain health, but short term ability to stay on the field and in the gym.
2. A proper concussion rehabilitation program needs to go beyond just rest and passing a cognitive test. It should incorporate functional movement and dynamic postural control testing as well.
3. If you’re someone who keeps getting hurt, has an injury that won’t go away, or suffers from chronic pain AND have a history of head/neck trauma, it’s likely neurological communication issues will need to be addressed to put an end to your cycle of frustration.
If you have questions regarding concussion rehabilitation protocol or how a previous head/neck injury may be affecting your life, feel free to shoot me an email at:
About the Author
Evan Lewis is a nationwide leader in Neuro Therapy and founded the Baltimore area's only specialist Neuro Therapy facility.
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