Concussion PreventionJune 6, 2019
I recently had a discussion with a high school football coach and asked him what he did to prevent against catastrophic injury. To which he responded that he does various drills, squats and lunges to prevent against knee injuries. After realizing that most coaches/players/parents think when you ask them about catastrophic injury, they only think about career ending knee injuries or injuries that would require surgery and not allow their children to play the sport for awhile. Unfortunately, in the medical world when we talk in terms of catastrophic injury we think along the lines of concussions and spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the head and spine that can result in more than just surgery is how catastrophic injury is defined.
Unfortunately with the mentality of a catastrophic injury being simply to a limb, you know that not much is being done to prevent against concussions and spinal cord injuries. Concussion has become such a commonplace word in our society most people think that you brush it off. “Oh it was just a mild concussion” I often hear. Any type of concussion is serious and should be treated as such. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, bottom line. Any type of jarring to your brain, whether it is deemed mild or not is a traumatic brain injury. These injuries, while they cannon be prevented, can be protected against.
There have been several studies done on the topic of athletes and concussions as we are only truly beginning to understand how detrimental they are. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest number of emergency room visits for sports related concussions are by those individuals ages 10-14. Recently published in Neurosurgery was the fact that children who have had 2 or more mild concussions, even if they go a long period without having a concussion, have increased mental problems, such as memory loss, difficulty with sleeping and reports of frequent headaches. If you put the findings of those two studies together you can surmise that children as young as 10 are sustaining multiple concussions and therefore at a very young age begin to suffer the consequences of memory loss.
The fact of the matter is that the evidence is beginning to be overwhelming of how damaging the long term effects of even mild concussions can be. The CDC and NIH which are both reputable websites have excellent information on concussions symptoms and what to do if you or your child experience one. But it is imperative if you suspect that either you or your child experience a head injury that you report it to your primary care physician or go to an emergency room ASAP.
However, there are a few exercises that can be done in order to minimize the number of concussions seen on athletic fields. Again, these may help but is not 100% guarantee that your child will not sustain one. But these exercises have been shown to reduce the number of concussions. And no it doesn’t involve extremely heavy lifting of arms or legs, they are simply neck exercises. Yes, neck exercises. They sound so simple, yet most people have a hard time doing them. By looking at the exercises most people scoff at them, thinking they are easy yet and truth be told, they are, but the sad fact is the majority of people I give these exercises to cannot do them without significant fatigue or not being able to complete them at all. Yet these are the same people we ask sustain an significant amount of force through their necks, multiple times on a daily basis. One has to stop and think if these basic exercises, and yes these are the basic exercises, cause so much fatigue, then how much injury must your child’s neck be going through when they do absorb a hit.
The exercises to start with are simple. Yes there are ways to make these more challenging but these are where to begin.
- Neck flexion – Lay flat on your back. Lift your head about 3 inches off the surface and hold it for 10 seconds, repeat this 30 times.
- Neck lateral flexion – Lay on your left side. Lift your head off the surface and hold 10 seconds 30 times. Repeat laying on your right side.
- Neck extension – Lay face down. Gently lift your nose off the floor about 3 inches, but keep you nose facing the floor, do not move your neck in a position that you are looking forward, you should be looking at the floor the entire time. Hold 10 seconds do 30 times.
If any of these exercises cause you pain or cause numbness or tingling down your arm then you need to stop immediately and consult your health care practitioner.
It is always a good idea to consult with a physical therapist before beginning a sport. Attending a few sessions of physical therapy can fix deficiencies you otherwise didn’t know you had. Physical therapy can also be a good platform to learn how to do exercises correctly, especially the neck exercises. In the unfortunate even that you do suffer a concussion, you may attend physical therapy for vestibular rehabilitation in order to retrain your balance. For more information on physical therapy services go to www.totalperformancept.com.
Playing sports has become about so much more than just being able to throw or catch a ball. Preventative exercises must be a part of every athlete’s playbook in order to sustain a long and healthy career.
Call Total Performance Physical Therapy today to schedule your appointment!