Concussions and Sports
The average high school student has 650 impacts a year and up to 2000 if they play a contact sport. Many of these kids are experiencing concussions and the recommendation to rest just isn’t supported by the current data to help them fully recover and to continue functioning. In addition, each additional concussion causes more damage and puts them at risk for neurodegeneration in adulthood. So let’s first let’s explore some basic information about the brain.
The brain is the fattest and most nutrient dependent organ in the body and is composed of 80 billion neurons. It is 60% fat, 75% water, and takes up 20% of the body’s blood and oxygen. The brain feels no pain; it is like jello.
If you get a concussion, you have a 1.5% chance of getting a second. There are three grades of concussions that are usually referenced based on symptomatology. They are:
Grade 1: Symptoms appear for less than 15 minutes.
Grade 2: Symptoms appear for longer than 15 minutes.
Grade 3: Loss of consciousness occurs. (only occur 10% of the time)
The most common symptoms are neck pain, balance disturbances, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. And most people don’t realize that when you hit your head, you damage your gut.
Preteens and teens have three times the chance of a catastrophic injury. There is testing that is done on and off the field to determine if a concussion has occurred. Every state has an impact pediatric test and the oculomotor nerve test.
Here is an overview of what happens to the brain when a concussion occurs. In a concussion we have a decrease in blood flow and a starvation for glucose in the first 7-10 days. Axons tear, glutamate is released, which forces calcium into the cell. It kicks out potassium. It causes plaquing which is called TAO proteins. This is the plaquing we see in Alzheimer's. This is cell death. Any repeated trauma accelerates this. So the goal is to not have a second concussion. With each concussion the chances of a second one occur exponentially.
Chemicals in the brain are altered. WE DO NOT WANT REPEATED TRAUMA. We experience dizziness, slurred speech. We need to stimulate a protein enzyme called BDNFC (brain derived neurotrophic factor) in order for the brain to heal. This can be stimulated with exercise. It helps with neuronal synapses. Resting with a concussion will not help this. This is also low in Alzheimer’s Disease. Therefore, rest is not the answer.
Everything we do is to increase BDNF. Look at the musculoskeletal system. Start with the occipital triangle, specifically the rectus capitas posterior. Balance the nervous system and muscular system with balance training. Do gaze stabilization exercises. So we need to assist the healing of the brain with exercise in general and specific exercises involving balance.
For nutritional support we must address this naturally. We need to effect neuronal growth. We need to speed recovery and prevent further injury. Nutritional supplementation should include protein, creatinine, DHA which is fish oil, and turmeric. The key ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which will decrease NFK appa B, the signal transducer of inflammation. It also stimulates the Nrf2 pathway which will increase antioxidant protection. Sulforaphane will also increase the Nrf2 pathway. Coffee food extract will also increase BDNJ by 134%. Others include magnesium l-threanate which can cross the blood brain barrier, and acetyl l-carnitine which energizes the brain.
In today’s modern world we experience what is termed diminished brain resilience syndrome due to several factors to include:
- Our toxic environment
- Nutritionally deficient foods
- Impaired physiology coming from the gut
- Neurological pathology indicated by the increased chance of getting a second concussion after getting a first one
Concussions lead to intestinal damage by way of the vagus nerve which is a route for bidirectional communication with the brain. When we experience a concussion there is a decrease in hydrochloric acid production by the stomach, decreased pancreatic secretions, and increased bile secretion all of which leads to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). According to Brown University, within 6 hours of a concussion, cells of the intestines are damaged. In fact we see SIBO in 60% of people that have had concussions. Lipopolysaccharides are released which are endotoxins produced by gram negative bacteria and can me measured by Cyrex Testing for intestinal permeability.
There is a decrease in the production of BDNF and systemic inflammation. Chronic concussions as we see in soccer players and football players clearly lead to neuroautoimmunity and neurodegeneration (ALS and Alzheimer’s).
The key is to be sure these kids are wearing helmets, don’t cocoon them, and keep them moving. Support healing of the brain with appropriate nutrition, and do everything possible to prevent another concussion. Rest is definitely not the answer!