White House Concussion Symposium

It is great to see that the problem of head trauma and subsequent brain injury is getting a lot of attention today. Increased awareness of prevention and treatment of concussion is vital towards decreasing its prevalence.

The brain is beautifully protected is some ways. We have a thick bone called the skull that surrounds it. The skull, in turn, is filled with fluid in which the brain surrounded by its meningeal membranes floats. However, the skull can also cause problems. When someone sustains a significant blow to their head (or sometimes other parts of their body), the brain can “slosh” around inside the skull. If this movement is great enough, the brain can make contact with the unyielding skull interior and sustain injuries as mild a brain “bruise” or as severe as blood vessel rupture or even death. We even know now that repeated mild to moderate jostling of the brain can cause damage that can include concussion. It has been well demonstrated that recurrent concussions and other brain trauma can contribute to many types of brain function issues. These can include memory problems, difficulties in problem solving, and focus maintenance. In the long term, concussion may contribute to earlier onset of dementia.

The obvious first step is prevention. Evaluate the activities that you and your loved ones take part in. Some sports are well know for having a high incidence of head trauma–boxing and football come immediately to mind. However, other sports like soccer have been demonstrated to cause head trauma from doing things such as “heading” a ball or through collisions with other players. Helmets and other head protection can help somewhat. But they do not entirely remove the movement of the brain inside the skull. Do not forget to evaluate home, work, and other recreational environments for potentially preventable causes of head injury.

Once a concussion occurs, healing must be promoting. Any activity that physically jostles the brain must be stopped. Both physical and mental stress should be minimized to allow the body to marshall and direct healing resources to the brain. Sleep is essential to the healing process and may be for many more hours a day than usual. Following simple daily routines can help ease the way into normal activities. A healthy diet rich in vegetables and essential fatty acids provides nutrients vital to the healing process.

Neurofeedback also seems to be of great help to many with concussions. In my practice, I have seen patients begin to see increased energy, clearer thinking, and fewer headaches within a few sessions of neurofeedback. Often patients are well on their way to their normal life in no more than 20 sessions.