Concussions are the number one most common type of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and although it is considered a milder form of TBI, it can have serious symptoms and affects on the brain. Many professional athletes have gone into early retirement due to repeated concussions and there are more studies than ever showing long-range effects in those who have suffered repeated concussions.
Ben Utecht spent six years in the NFL playing alongside such elite athletes as Peyton Manning and Deion Sanders until repeated concussions suffered on the field caused him to make the decision to retire. Ben has a Super Bowl ring but also lingering cognitive challenges as he struggles to recall major life experiences. Today, Ben has moved into motivational speaking and a career in music while also working as an advocate for the American Academy of Neurology and the American Brain Foundation to raise awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury.
And raising awareness about the cause and effect of repeated concussions may hold the key to helping better diagnose, and hopefully prevent, long term effects. According to the CDC, “more than 1,000,000 athletes experience a concussion each year in the US.” However, at times concussions can be hard to diagnose, perhaps skewing those numbers even lower and leading to missed diagnosis. This lack of awareness many times means that athletes return to the field sooner than they should, which happened throughout Ben Utecht’s career.
The main symptom of concussions, which occur when the brain moves too quickly back and forth in the head, is a disruption in consciousness. This can manifest itself several different ways including difficulty with memory, concentration, changes in mood and personality and cognitive performance problems. Balance, vision and hearing changes can also occur and may be accompanied by head pain.
Over the recent years, there has been an increased awareness and interest in the study of TBI. As studies continue, more advances are being made. Last year, the Academy of Neurology released new guidelines on the evaluation and management of concussions including removing recommendations for set times to return to play in favor of more individualized assessments for when players should return. This is to give the patients brain ample time to heal and has been endorsed by the NFL. Determining when the brain has fully recovered is critical to the long-term health of the patient.
When it comes to treatment of TBI and concussions specifically, the need for science-based practices is becoming more and more evident. Chiropractic neurology is a perfect fit for treatment of TBI because it is highly individualized care, focused on the specific needs of each patient. And while recovery can be unpredictable and challenging, this specialized form of chiropractic care offers the patient alternatives to relying on medications that mask symptoms by focusing on retraining the brain, and ultimately restoring optimal health.