Hi, I’m Dr Cobb of Z-Health Performance and if you didn’t know, in the United States March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. We are obviously a brain-based training company, we focus on working with doctors, therapists, and coaches in the real world with a brain-based focus, uh, so this is a very important one for us to talk about different topics.
Today what we’re going to discuss is a very specific kind of issue that will occur in many people after they’ve experienced a concussion, uh, head injury of some kind, and it’s called Post-Concussion Syndrome. Now, the research on this is all over the mountain but it looks like somewhere between five and thirty percent of people after a head injury, will develop what’s called post-concussion syndrome. And this means that you have issues or symptoms that occur for longer than three months after the initial injury. The thing that I want to share with you today is that often brain injuries and concussions can lead to things that most of us would not anticipate or expect. So generally when we talk about this, we say that there are four buckets of areas or four buckets of issues that can arise and it’s very important if you have had a head injury, if a family member, one of your kids, you know as a soccer player (they have a concussion) there are different things that you want to be looking out for.
So here are the basics. Number one we know that people with post-concussion issues will have physical symptoms those can be all over the map, but you’ll often hear things like headaches dizziness; unexpected issues like that. Difficulty with reading, it becomes difficult to focus on different objects with the eyes. There can be ongoing pain issues in the neck and the spine throughout the body. So there is a physical bucket of so those that accompany post-concussion.
The next one that we typically talk about is the cognitive bucket; meaning people who have had injuries will be familiar with the idea that it becomes difficult to concentrate; people will complain about brain fog, a loss of memory capacity, and inability to sit down and study or to do their work. So there’s a cognitive component to it.
The next bucket is the emotional bucket and this is a little bit weird but it’s also something that I’ve seen over and over. So this is the thing that I always mention to our clients always talk to them about it because it is very common when the brain has been injured to have problems with emotional regulation. So, you will sometimes have people that have anxiety issues that develop, depressive issues, anger management issues; all these different types of things can show up. On a personal note, though years ago my son had a pretty significant concussion playing soccer and his kind of number one and number two issues were difficulty concentrating and anger. If you have someone in your life that have a head injury and you notice a few months later that it’s like they’ve gone through this strange personality change; understand that it may be part of the healing process and it may be something they need to have addressed with a team.
And then finally the other one that I think is really important is sleep. Often what we’ll say after head injury is that sleep becomes disordered in a variety of different ways. People can develop: insomnia, they can have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, but more than anything what we generally see is that sleep quality will go down. And why this is super important after a brain injury, is that it is during sleep when most of the cleaning mechanisms (if you want to call it that) the lymph drainage, etc., from the brain occurs. So if sleep is disordered after head injury it makes the healing process take even longer.
From a practical perspective, what does all this mean? If you have had a head injury as I said or a family member has, you wouldn’t talk to a group of people, a team who understands these different domains. Normally when working with clients, depending on their situation, we may need to make multiple referrals. Maybe they’re having a lot of vertigo and dizziness and they need to see a vestibular specialist. Maybe they’re having difficulty reading; they get very fatigued very tired, they can’t focus. So maybe we need vision specialists. Maybe they have sleep issues; we need to talk to a sleep specialist. Now most people handle most of these things really well with just a little bit of intervention. But we want to make sure that people understand that post-concussion issues can be significant enough to impact: on jobs, on schools, on relationships. As opposed to kind of the traditional idea that “hey, you have a head injury a few weeks later, you should be fine.” You need to recognize that typically if we look at the numbers, one in three people may start to develop something in one of these buckets or worse, that lasts longer than three months. We regularly see people that may have issues that have lasted eight or ten years or longer. So, we want you to think back to your history and think about, “did something change after I had that concussion? After I slipped and fell?”
And the other thing to remember in all this is that head injuries do not require you to lose consciousness, right? Brain injury can occur from a whiplash type of effect. It doesn’t mean that you were knocked out for any period of time. And depending on a lot of underlying factors (from your genetics, to your gender, to your hormonal status, your underlying health status) people respond very differently to head trauma. So even innocuous issues can have long-term effects and I think that’s one of the key takeaways in this particular month which is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Hopefully you feel this information useful if you have questions, let us know. I’ll be back soon to talk more about concussion and post-concussion rehabilitation and the need for aerobic exercise. So we’ll see you soon!