A former Steeler, currently being treated by me for the concussions he sustained while a player, came into the office last week after viewing the premier of the movie, “Concussion.” What he had seen in the movie made him visibly emotional. He spoke at length about the damage retired players experience and how they need to know that there is help for them- in this office. He was exasperated that the movie made no mention that there is a solution (cranial movement therapy) for the impairments sustained by the head traumas, and that the existing “treatment” of “rest” or “physical therapy” simply has limited results.
Concussions are the most frequent injury in the NFL, but (as quoted by Forbes) in the medical world a concussion does not currently have an agreed upon medical definition. Many believe the actual diagnosis criteria is a grey area for the sake of the NFL’s decision makers.
In an article from the Tribune Review, Freelance Columnist and Sports Radio Host Joe Starklyinterviewed Steelers’ Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his recent concussion diagnosis. The issue was that Roethlisberger wasn’t sure if he even had a concussion because no one would tell him the results of his computer concussion test (ImPACT). His coach and doctors were the ones who determined whether Roethlisberger was clear to go to practice, but wouldn’t give any hard diagnosis. Arguably, they could have been withholding this information to allow him to continue playing– a subject that hits close to the Concussion movie message.
My patient shared how he had gone through the “prescribed” concussion protocols the NFL and UPMC recommended only to realize that he was continuing to deteriorate over the first year of his retirement. It was then that he sought care here for his injuries. He mentioned several times that he didn’t want to imagine where he would be if he hadn’t come here. That opened a long discussion about the physiology of the cranial bones and the role cranial bone movement has on brain health.
In short, the only way a person can recover from a head injury is to have the normal cranial bone movement restored. This allows the brain to reinstate the normal cerebro-spinal fluid flow and circulation compromised after a concussion. It is critical in the rehabilitation of the brain after a concussion, and there is no way a person can recover fully from a concussion if this isn’t accomplished.
That statement is worth repeating: It is not possible for the brain to return to pre-concussion status if the cranial bone movement isn’t restored! People who have had concussions and don’t receive cranial movement therapy are susceptible to “second concussion syndrome.” Second concussion syndrome wouldn’t exist if the person had received cranial bone movement restoration.
For example, take a look at Sidney Crosby. He never received proper treatment after his major concussion. His acute symptoms are better, which allowed him to return to play, but the real problem was never dealt with and remains compromised. His performance proves this. Talk is abundant about how his level of play just isn’t the same as it was pre-concussion.
Some people think he’s holding back, because he’s afraid of another injury. But
people who have never been around hockey players know that can’t be true, because hockey players are fearless. The reality is that he is struggling because his brain is continuing to slowly deteriorate due to the fact that his normal cranial bone movement was never reestablished.
Why is this critical? The movement of the cranial bones pumps cerebro-spinal fluid around the brain, facilitating the removal of metabolic waste products out of the central nervous system. After a head injury, the cranial bone movement is altered, slowing down the cerebro-spinal fluid movement, and making it impossible to efficiently remove the waste products that are produced. The net result? Thebrain tissue starts to die.
This phenomenon explains why the NFL has to deal with the fallout from head injuries. It explains the reason for the problems of the Mike Webster’s and Junior Seau’s of the world. Yet the technology and treatment exists, so this shouldn’t be happening to these men.
It has become a common scene: former athletes come into my office, shut the door, and break down emotionally because they are scared to death over what is happening to them. One former NFL lineman got my attention when he said the he wanted to be able to see his “grandchildren grow up and be able to remember their names.” Concussion, the movie, was riveting, emotional and hard-hitting, as is the real-life epidemic. However, it is long past time to tackle the truth.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures