With the fall sports season well underway it's never to late to refresh your understanding of how to identify and respond to a concussion. Above all, never underestimate the danger of the condition. The health consequences of ignoring a concussion can be severe.
“Walk it off!” “Get back in the game!” Great character-building advice? Well, maybe sometimes, but if you or someone you know has suffered a concussion, this advice is absolutely WRONG!
Gary Kaplan, DO, Medical Director of The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA, advises: “If your child suffers a blow to the head during practice or a game, he or she should be taken off the field immediately. Ignoring the incident and allowing him or her to continue to play could result your child suffering additional concussions.”
Research indicates that with each additional trauma to the head/brain, there is a slower recovery in neurological function. In addition, the cumulative effect of multiple concussions increases one’s risk of developing neurodegenerative health problems later in life. For these reasons, athletes in particular must be very careful and fully cognizant of the consequences of delayed treatment or non-treatment.
To improve your chances of a full recovery from a concussion Dr. Kaplan offers 5 quick tips:
1) Familiarize yourself with the symptoms* of a concussion, including:
· Temporary amnesia of the injurious event
· Decreased concentration or “brain fog”
· Difficulty learning new material
· Headache or blurred vision
· Sensitivity to noise or light
· Emotional lability
· Anxiety or depressed mood
· Sleep dysfunction
· Dizziness or imbalance
· Nausea or vomiting
· Physical weakness
· Slurred speech
* Important Note: Despite what you see in movies and on television, loss of consciousness typically does not occur with a concussion. Also, the onset of symptoms can be delayed for hours or even days after a head injury, so stay alert for any new symptoms or behavioral changes during this post-injury period
2) Seek immediate medical attention for anyone exhibiting the following symptoms:
· A change in consciousness, manifesting as difficulty staying awake or alert, not making sense when talking, or not being able to understand what is being said
· Headache is getting progressively worse
· Increasing nausea or vomiting
· Pronounced physical weakness
· Slurred speech
3) If a head-injured person does not exhibit any of the five big danger signs listed above, follow these recommendations to ensure a complete recovery:
· REST! Give your brain time to heal.
· Get on a regular sleep cycle, sleeping 8-9 hours per night.
· Stay hydrated.
· Avoid watching TV or spending too much time in front of a computer screen; these activities literally strain your brain!
· Make sure you take enough time to fully recover before returning to your normal activities. If symptoms return after beginning an activity, stop, and take more time to rest.
4) Communicate with your physician throughout your recovery, especially if your symptoms aren’t improving or your recovery is slow.
5) Consider using supplemental medical resources to support your recovery from a brain injury, including:
· Arnica, a homeopathic remedy that reduces inflammation and swelling from an acute injury and is available either topically or in pill form;
· Glutathione, which can be taken intravenously, decreases the free radicals that can damage neural synapses;
· Dietary supplementation, such as Omega-3 fatty acids & Vitamin B12 provides brain-healthy nutritional support;
· Brain Gym, sometimes called “physical therapy for your brain,” can help a brain-injured individual regain vision, speech, emotional balance, physical coordination, and other cognitive functions;
· Craniosacral Therapy, a very gentle form of manual manipulation can provide pain relief and help strengthen the immune system; and
· Specialized Blood Testing identifies the genetic markers that indicate the propensity for developing chronic inflammation, so steps can be taken to proactively reduce inflammation and allow the body and brain to heal more efficiently.
Says Dr. Kaplan, “The best medicine is always prevention, but when a head injury does occur, a prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to minimizing or avoiding serious health consequences. Give your brain time to heal, it’s worth protecting!”
The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine: The Center’s founder and medical director is Dr. Gary Kaplan. Board-certified in Family Medicine, Pain Medicine and Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Kaplan is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). The Kaplan Center’s team of physicians, physical therapists, and other health care providers combine the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative practices to address chronic pain and illness and to help individuals attain optimal health for life. To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.
 Guskiewicz KM, McCrea M, Marshall SW, et al. “Cumulative Effects Associated With Recurrent Concussion in Collegiate Football Players”; JAMA, 2003;290(19):2549-2555.
 Gavette, Stern, McKee. “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A Potential Late Effect of Sport-Related Concussive and Subconcussive Head Trauma”; Clinics in Sports Medicine, Volume 30, Issue 1 , Pg 179-188. Jan 2011.