Concussions are the most common form of head injury (also known as “mild traumatic brain injury” (mTBI)) and can occur as a result of an impact or a violent “blow” to the head or other part of the body that causes the brain to move quickly Skull.
Limited research into concussions has been conducted over the years due to unreported cases, a lack of public education and awareness, and inconsistent or lack of data on brain injury.
The most common causes of concussions are vehicle accidents, falls, and injuries during sports and leisure activities. People who have had a mild or severe concussion have reported symptoms such as headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, ringing in the ears, sensitivity to light and sounds, nausea and vomiting, blurred or delayed speech, confusion, double vision, and fatigue.
Persistent post-concussive symptoms (also known as post-concussion syndrome – PCS) occur when the concussion symptoms persist beyond the expected recovery period after the initial injury and, in some cases, become a long-term disability.
Last month Pastor Shane Fitch of Bradford Community Church was in a car accident after a vehicle blew a red light and hit Fitch in the side. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured, but suffered a minor concussion after banging his head from the driver’s side window.
“I went to the hospital just to be checked out. I had no problems with my limbs, just a really bad headache, ”Fitch notes. “They did a CT scan to see if I had any bleeding in the brain and there wasn’t any, so I was sent home.”
Fitch contacted his GP, who recommended that he see a physical therapist who specifically deals with concussions. Fitch has seen a physical therapist three or four times now, but has not yet reported any change in his symptoms.
“[The physiotherapist] tries to assess the severity of the concussion through a series of tests – quick eye movements, shaking your head to see how you react, “explains Fitch. “If these tests are severe, they will be very difficult and you will not be able to stand up or you will fall over. [and] feel nauseous. “
Such tests are based on how well the eyes process information to the brain, which is an important link to concussions. Fitch says he feels deep pressure on his head, like the onset of a headache or wearing a tight-fitting hat for too long, but reports that the pressure comes and goes at certain times, usually when he’s more active. However, its more worrisome symptom is a slower speech pattern.
“I usually don’t pause that much when I speak,” says Fitch. “I find it difficult to concentrate and say what’s in my brain. The signal has slowed down, that’s a strange thing … and very strange to me because I’m usually a fast communicator. “
Pastor Fitch has given two online sermons at Bradford Community Church since the accident and has had to rely on his wife, Pastor Becky Fitch, to help with Bible reading during the sermons. Becky said that his first sermon had done a lot for him and that he needed rest afterwards.
“He seems to take a few steps forward and then back,” explains Becky. “I’ve been told this is a common occurrence with concussions.”
“When there is no distraction, it makes it easier for me to communicate,” adds Fitch. “Any peripheral movement or visual distraction distorts my thought process, which then disrupts my speech. I have time gaps to process information. “
Fitch says the accident hit his family, which was challenging. The Fitch’s have four boys and Fitch cannot be that active with them because he has “pretty severe fatigue” and pressure on his head when attempting any type of activity. For example, the family has a large outdoor ice rink in their back yard, but any attempt to skate with his boys leaves Fitch feeling “obliterated” with a headache in his head.
“There are moments with my kids when they’re all loud at the same time and I think, ‘whoa, that’s sensory overload!'” Fitch shared. “The pressure is building up and I have to get out of the situation.”
Fitch’s physical therapist recommends plenty of rest and limiting screen time, but Fitch says he doesn’t consider this to be a recovery process as there is little information available about treating concussions.
“There’s no cure for it,” says Fitch. “I’m looking for answers, but there are no real solutions.”
For Brad Macintosh, who lives in Bradford, a concussion is something he had to “learn to live” with.
Macintosh is a math teacher and has been very active in sports such as weekly volleyball and hockey. A few years ago, during one of his hockey games, Macintosh fell backwards and hit his head on the ice. Although Macintosh was wearing a helmet, he suffered a concussion.
“I tried to keep my head from hitting the ice which was possibly a huge mistake as the whiplash I suffered when my head hit the ice in the end was probably why I was concerned “describes Macintosh.
Macintosh’s symptoms were similar to Fitch’s, and like Fitch, he too could find no answers or effective treatments to “cure” his symptoms.
“I slept for the first month after the accident,” remembers Macintosh. “I needed everything to come downstairs and prepare meals for my boys. Lights and sounds were the worst. You almost hurt me. “
When Macintosh finally got back to work, he admitted he was having trouble teaching his class.
“I didn’t really teach them, I just taught them to hang out with them. I couldn’t read and think at the same time. I got really dizzy. Especially when I’ve scanned something, “he said.
Macintosh adds that driving was okay, but car headlights bothered him and he often drove with the sun visor down and wearing sunglasses even in the dark.
Macintosh spent months researching everything it could know about concussions and seeking treatment from a variety of health practitioners, including one osteopath he described as “amazing.”
Unfortunately, some symptoms never went away.
“It’s like waking up every morning with a hangover but no alcohol,” says Macintosh. “The ringing in my ears has not stopped and I still have brutal migraines.”
It was two full years before Macintosh could play hockey again, and he said that while he was recovering he had learned a few simple tricks to help him do it:
# 1 – Don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll pay for it. Every time you get dizzy or tired, take a break from what you’re trying until it’s over.
# 2 – Avoid glucose at all costs. The simplest diet is keto because it removes sugars and carbohydrates, both of which end up in the brain and cause more harm than good.
# 3 – exercise. Whatever you can do within your own limits. At first it might just be a stroll around the block. Then maybe brisk walks or easy bike tours. The goal is to get your heart rate up as much as possible without affecting your symptoms. Track your window and work towards longer exercises.
# 4 – Try speaking to an osteopath. They deal with the spine and all things skull related.
# 5 – Vitamin E and Curcumin: Both are good for supporting inflammation.
# 6 – Meditate / pray. Aim for twice a day. Half an hour at a time. This will help “clear” the mind.
Macintosh adds that “caffeine” also exacerbated his symptoms and continues to make him “dizzy” to this day.
“Practice really is key,” notes Macintosh. “The flow of blood through the brain helps the healing process the most. But it’s a frustrating process. It took me months to ride a stationary bike with a heart rate of 100 beats per minute for 10 minutes … like months and months! “
Local physical therapist Tristan Senior, who works at Body in Balance Physiotherapy in Bradford, recently started treating Pastor Fitch for his concussion. He says the clinic treats a few affected patients each year, mainly due to motor vehicle accidents.
“Concussions can last months or even years,” notes Senior. “Unfortunately, that’s why professional athletes sometimes retire early … it’s tragic and debilitating.”
Senior explains that there are different types of treatments when it comes to concussions and that each patient / case is different depending on the severity and cause of the concussion. Body in Balance uses basic tests and a concussion screening tool called Vestibular / Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS) to screen patients against normative values.
“Someone with a concussion is very, very sensitive to rapid eye movements,” notes Senior. “Visual systems take up a large part of our brain. Injuries to the brain lead to symptoms you never knew about. If the client already has fog, a brain injury will make symptoms worse. “
Senior adds that he and the other physical therapists at the Body in Balance Clinic in Guelph have completed additional training specifically for concussion exams and treatments as they recognized the need for better patient care in this area and took the time to become more knowledgeable to invest about concussions.
“An early part of a concussion has a lot of management,” continues Senior. “Concussion management in patients involves desensitization. To do that, we have to expose them to these symptoms to some extent in an attempt to reset the brain on its own … there are many different therapies – cognitive, ocular – but unfortunately not all of them work. “