Moving Beyond the Wait – A young soccer player, a third-grade girl I’ll call Annabelle, came to see me seeking relief from disabling eye pain, lack of visual focus, depression, and anxiety. Annabelle had been living with these symptoms for quite some time, ever since she suffered a mild blow to her head during a game. After the injury, her family took her for treatment immediately, and she was diagnosed with a concussion. Furthermore, The physician who saw her told her family to “wait out” the symptoms. So they waited. And waited. The longer Annabelle waited, the worse her symptoms seemed to get. Moreover, Annabelle had to give up soccer and started missing an extraordinary amount of school. In my practice, I see head injury victims like Annabelle, and the long-term effects of the “wait and see” approach to concussions all too often.
Moving Beyond the Wait – Concussions are one of the greatest concerns for young athletes in this country today. One-quarter of a million young people visit emergency rooms every year to seek treatment for sport or recreation-related brain injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control. It is thought that many more concussions go untreated because of a lack of awareness about the dangers of head injuries. Research into the problem suggests other reasons why concussions go unreported. A study conducted by The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council concluded that there is a “culture of resistance”. Among athletes to report concussion symptoms. Many young sports players, their coaches, and families take the wait-and-see approach. Annabelle’s story demonstrates that many health care practitioners do the same.
The White House Concussion Summit
Recently, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit to spread awareness of brain injury prevention and offer resources to recognize and appropriately respond to concussions in young people. After the event, the White House released a fact sheet on sports related concussions aimed at young athletes and their families. What is most striking to me in this release is the continued realization that there are significant gaps in concussion. Research knowledge and the statement. “The truth is we still do not know enough about the consequences of traumatic brain injuries. (whether) it’s a hard knock on the playing field or head injury sustained by one of our troops serving abroad.”
Moving Beyond the Wait – I have personally observed the consequences of mild to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in clinical practice for nearly 15 years now, and this perceived lack of understanding of the consequences, in my humble opinion, is the primary reason for the general apathy and “sit and wait” approach most follow when it comes to dealing with mild brain injury or concussion. The greater issue, which is suggesting in the White House release from the summit. Is a need for better education for and coordination between athletes. Parents, coaches, educators, providers, and other stakeholders.
The White House concussion summit offered a lot of reasons for hope. Including new research that is being funding by the NCAA, the NFL, and many educational, governmental, and non-profit institutions. While it’s encouraging that communication barriers are being broken down and much-needed research and guidelines are being assembled. The truth is that today’s young athletes could be receiving much better and swifter care for concussion injuries. There are already effective methods for dealing with brain injuries that deserve more attention. The symptoms, objective markers and testing, treatment options, and long term dangers of concussion are in fact well understood by those clinicians dealing with brain injury on a regular basis.
A Different Approach to Concussion Injuries for Today’s Young Athletes
Functional neurologists are very likely the best-equipped clinicians to deal with the ramifications of brain injury in youth, as they are well-versed in the function of the motor, balance, eye movement, cognitive and emotional, autonomic, and other systems often impacted by blows to the head. They also have at their disposal diagnostic testing procedures to assess function in all of these areas and, most importantly. An exhaustive list of rehabilitative tools to effectively treat these potentially devastating injuries.
As a Functional Neurologist, I have a different approach to concussion. When Annabelle came into my office I did not tell her to “wait and see.”. I gave her a full neurological evaluation and ran many other test regimens. Including eye movement testing with videonystagmography. Her results revealed that the parts of her brain are responsible for visual focus, object tracking. And balance was not performing functionally. Moreover, Other problems were uncovering as well, including measurable challenges with sequencing and planning in the front part of her brain. After an intensive 5 day course of brain training specific for her measured deficits, she returned to school and was able to finish the rest of her school year without any further problems. She told me, “I am normal again.”
With greater education and awareness of treatment options available today. We can help young athletes like Annabelle get back on their feet. Furthermore Back to enjoying the quality of life they deserve, without waiting for a second longer – Moving Beyond the Wait!
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