Updated: Aug 4
With all the concern over head knocks and concussion in sport it is interesting to know there is more we can do that just rest after a head injury. These tips are also quite relevant for any other sports related injuries.
Concussion is used to describe a minor head injury that is not usually life-threatening. It is a common sporting injury, particularly in body contact sports (e.g. football, boxing), and recreational activities where falls are common, such as horse riding, cycling, skiing and diving.
It is generally caused by a direct blow to the head (e.g. after being struck on the head by an object; or striking the head in a fall), but it can also occur after a sudden change in direction, causing the brain to strike against the skull (e.g. swerving on the sporting field; or ‘whiplash’ injury in a car accident)
Concussion symptoms may consist of;
A short period of unconsciousness (30 minutes or less),
Amnesia (generally lasting less than 24 hours)
A period of amnesia, or not recalling what has happened, is essential to the diagnosis of concussion
Persistent, low-grade headache
People who have had a concussion may experience;
Headache which can be persistent or severe
Whole body issues such as blackout, fatigue, or poor balance
Cognitive disorders amnesia, disorientation, or mental confusion
Sleep disturbances or sleepiness
Gastrointestinal problems like nausea or vomiting
Also common is irritability, mild depression, ringing in the ears, or sensitivity to light
It is advised to see your doctor after any head injury, or go to an emergency department if any of the following develop
severe or continuing headache despite taking painkillers
bleeding or discharge from ear or nose
numbness or weakness in face, arm or leg
confusion or unusual drowsiness
a fit or seizure, loss of consciousness
slurred speech or difficulty swallowing
problems with eyesight or balance
new deafness in one or both ears.
Rest is vitally important for treating the acute phase of a concussion, optimal nutrition is also vital to help increase the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in those first few days after injury. BDNF is a chemical released from the brain to help in repair to help neurons grow faster and reduce risk of long-term damage. This includes NO computer games, T.V., school work or devices.
Arnica- First line of treatment would be homeopathic Arnica. Can be used for any sports injury and is extremely safe for all ages and can be given with any other medications.
Protein – protein is needed for the healing and repair of damaged tissues. High protein foods such as meat and eggs are ideal but often there is nausea associated with a concussion so a protein shake made with good quality whey protein or vegan protein is ideal.
Vitamin D – often the winter sports are where the contact sports are taking place with higher risk of head trauma and this is where the Vitamin D levels may be low due to less sunshine, so adequate Vitamin D is important for both the immune system and the neuroprotective benefits.
Omega 3 fatty acids EPA/DHA are important for reducing inflammation after brain injury.
Magnesium - one of the most important nutrients for speeding recovery, prevention of delayed brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. It helps to reduce inflammation and also increases the essential glutathione levels in the cells.
Zinc – Magnesium and Zinc are two minerals that are crucial for the repair of the neurons in the brain after injury, but both drop after a concussion so supplementation is vital.
Tumeric – is another great anti-inflammatory to be used as soon as possible for concussion. A high potency Curcumin tablet or capsule is better than the spice as its active ingredient is higher helping to reduce the cell damage and decrease inflammation.
Good quality diet – usually light foods are best for the first day or two after injury as nausea may prevent eating too much food, so think nourishing chicken and vegetable soups, protein shakes and avoid highly processed treats, sugar laden foods and deep-fried foods that all lead to high inflammation in the body and contain no nutritional benefit.
Physical therapy after a concussion may be needed if the pain in the neck or head is not getting better as this can help with any muscle strain or misalignment due to the knock or fall. Speak to your chiropractor, bowen therapist or physiotherapist to see if this may be beneficial for you.
In health & happiness
References - Dr Robert Silverman, Westchester Integrative Health