Navigating through the fog: A new perspective on brain injury and contact sports
By Dr. Luke Roller, DC
Now that Super Bowl LIV is over and everyone has decided on their favorite commercials, we thought we would discuss another matter that has been receiving an increasing amount of attention over recent years. From the early season practices to the final whistle last night in Miami, coaches, players and spectators alike have all grown to grimace when the unfortunately all-too-familiar “pop” of a helmets colliding is heard on the field. And despite recent efforts by both the NCAA and NFL to modify both equipment and rules of the game to protect players, there continues to be an alarming amount of injuries. At the end of the 2019 NFL season, there were 224 confirmed concussions sustained by athletes, up 10 from the season prior. But the data shows that 50-80% of concussions in football remain undiagnosed and untreated. Now this article is not only looking to point the finger at the football community as it only accounts for a portion of the head traumas in our country. On average, there are between 2.5 and 4 million concussions in the US alone from recreational and contact sports. These head traumas, albeit on the gridiron or on the ski slopes, are not only causing instant damage to the athletes, but can also leave them with lingering effects for months to years, if not properly addressed. These symptoms can include: headache, head pressure, brain fog, fatigue, poor concentration, depression/anxiety and diminished sleep quality.
What is the culprit?
So what is it that should be addressed in these cases? How should we be focusing the care for these athletes? In some instances the impact truly is jarring to the point to cause bruising on the brain. In this case, the concussion protocol should be carried out including modifications to diet, exercise regimes and sleep in order to best facilitate the recovery process for the brain. However recent research coming out of The University of Buffalo is showing that often these symptom inducing blows introduced to the head result in a disturbance to the structural integrity of the upper neck. Additional data showed that the average amount of force required to cause a concussion is 80 newtons, whereas the amount of force needed to cause damage to the upper neck is a mere 8 newtons. So if an athlete does sustain a neck injury, what options are out there for addressing this often overlooked but serious health concern?
...blows introduced to the head result in a disturbance to the structural integrity of the upper neck.
A clearing in the fog
For Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon, and NHL players Sidney Crosby and Drew Stafford along with many others who have experienced the repercussions of head/neck traumas, they have found hope with upper cervical chiropractic care. This is the care that we provide at Align Spinal Care, where we utilize a holistic approach to come alongside our patients to help them along the healing process. Using a specific, image guided technique, we apply a gentle and unique force to the upper neck of that individual to restore structural integrity. Once this restoration occurs, it allows optimal flow of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord which often becomes full of damaged tau protein after head/neck traumas. So without the proper care, these proteins can build up in the brain which has shown to lead to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders. So if you or someone you know has either participated in or still does participate in contact sports, it’s important to get your upper neck checked by a NUCCA provider. We at Align Spinal Care are dedicated to ensuring the safety and health of our athletes and look forward to joining you wherever you may be in your athletic career.