Thank you to the editors of the Boulder Daily Camera, for addressing CU football star and Heisman Trophy winner, Rashaan Salaam's suicide in Boulder, Colorado last week to it's real cause: repeated concussions that lead to a disease called CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalitus.) This painful and deadly disease was discovered in 2002 by a doctor, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who examined the brain of famed player Pitsburg Stealer's player, Mike Webster. It took the NFL seven years to acknowledge that there is a connection between repeated head injuries and CTE. And now, 15 years later, the research shows it is at epidemic levels in former Pro NFL players. One recent study by Boston University puts the percentage of former NFL players with CTE at 96%!
We could read this news and think that it's a tragedy but has nothing to do with us, but we are more susceptible to brain damage than we think. Do you remember getting bumped on the head as a child from a fall, or knocked out playing sports? I can think of two incidences myself, and I never played sports as a kid! According to the CDC, more than 248,000 U.S. children and teens land in the emergency room each year because of a concussion sustained in sports or recreational activities. Statistics show the numbers of children and adults is about 1.6-3.8 million a year.
While the effects of repeated concussions that pro-athletes experience is much more severe than a one-time injury, we see in our neurofeedback clinic that even the second concussion can create symptoms lasting weeks and severe enough to affect their performance at school or work. Often sufferers are experiencing on-going dizziness, headaches, insomnia/sleep issues, and difficulty concentrating, particularly when doing computer work. The common refrain we hear is: but the injury wasn't that bad. What people don't know is that effects of a second injury are often worse because of pre-existing damage that is asymptomatic, often from a concussion they sustained as children.
We need to take care of our brains through protecting against injuries and when we do have a concussion, taking the appropriate steps to help the brain heal. The good news is that awareness is growing in the media and many coaches are mandated to report injuries and follow set protocols for care. The bad news, as we have reported in other blogs, is that the number of effective supports that neurologist often offer is limited to cognitive rest. A brain map, MRI or QEEG can confirm an injury but often physicians don't go far enough with the supports available such as, nutritional supplementation, and neurofeedback. Does neurofeedback work for a concussion?