Vail Health Insights column: What to watch for after a concussion
If you go …
What: “Concussions, Brain Injuries and Brain Envy: What You Need to Know to Prevent, Identify and Reverse Damage,” a discussion with Nicole McGuffin.
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 17.
Where: The Basement, Unit G-002, Garnet Building, Riverwalk at Edwards.
Cost: Free and open to the public.
More information: Call 970-343-2709 to reserve your spot.
“You are supposed to be tough. You are supposed to play through pain. You are not supposed to cry. We are taught that early on in the game as kids. Tough sport. Brutal sport. It’s like the gladiator. People want to see the big hits. They wind up on Sports Center. And as a player, you don’t want to admit you are injured.” — Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson
“A study of 2,500 retired NFL players found that those who had at least three concussions during their careers had triple the risk of clinical depression as those who had no concussions. Those who recalled one or two concussions were 1 ½ times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.” — Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, research director of the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes
It’s no secret that parents and coaches are more aware today about concussions and brain injuries than ever. It’s being discussed; it’s on the news, and recently, the movie “Concussion” was released — all bringing awareness to concussions and brain injury. What you may not realize is how elusive the nature of a brain injury is.
It is estimated that each year, approximately 1.5 million Americans survive a traumatic brain injury, among which 230,000 are hospitalized. Approximately 50,000 Americans die each year following a brain injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries are falls (28 percent), motor vehicle-traffic accidents (20 percent), struck by/against events (19 percent) and assaults (11 percent). Also, 47 percent of high school football players report having at least one concussion each season, and of those reports, 35 percent have a second injury in the same season.
It is estimated that 80 percent of people with brain injuries will recover completely. It is the 20 percent that do not recover who are often misdiagnosed or a diagnosis is missed completely. According to Ronald Swatzyna, Ph.D., traumatic brain injury expert, in those 20 percent of cases where a concussion or other traumatic brain injury was diagnosed, “post-concussive syndrome can take months to years for symptoms to fully present.”
This delay in presentation of symptoms can contribute to a failure in traumatic brain injury diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Knowing this can help parents and coaches look out for symptoms.
1. Know the symptoms: The most common symptoms are poor short-term memory, emotional difficulty, lack of focus, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, depression, anxiety, vision difficulty, cognitive deficits, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, poor speech fluency, substance abuse and sleep disturbance. According to neurologist Jonathan Walker, M.D., “If posttraumatic symptoms persist at three months, they are likely to persist at six months and one year.”
2. Look for delayed concussion symptoms: When an individual has normal functioning prior to the injury with a symptom profile that gradually and progressively worsens after the injury, this often leads to additional diagnoses. How one responds to medication, either showing no response or unwanted negative side effects, is an indicator. The complex presentation of delayed symptoms including difficulty focusing, learning, experiencing irritability and aggression, depression and possible substance abuse or suicidal ideation are all red flags.
3. In the recovery period, the individual is more at risk for a secondary concussion: In the recovery period, cognitive and physical rest is important. During this period, an individual is at risk for a secondary injury. Incurring multiple concussions creates a risk for secondary impact syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. In kids and teenagers, this risk is even greater because their brains are still developing.
With a desire to promote brain health, in addition to healthy minds and relationships, Amazing Brains’ research on concussions provides hope and new possibilities to be able to get through a concussion or traumatic brain injury with more ease. With family and friends supporting the process, you will find new ways to think, feel, perform and sleep, in addition to connecting with loved ones through the process. This is the greatest gift you can give to yourself or a loved one.
Nicole McGuffin, MA, LPC, BCN, is a licensed psychotherapist, board certified in neurofeedback and a certified gestalt therapist. She works holistically treating the whole person with EEG biofeedback and counseling. Located in The Riverwalk at Edwards, she can be reached at 970-343-2709 or email@example.com.