Heading in New Directions: How to Better Treat Concussions in Defenders
Defenders head the ball more than players in any other positions on the soccer field so it stands to reason they are in the firing line when it comes to dealing with the consequences of concussions.
In recent months, huge strides have been made in restricting heading among young children playing in Cal South and across the United States as a result of a safety campaign I have been advocating for years.
Now attention is turning to the ways in which we handle concussions, not just in soccer but in all sports.
A New Look at Concussions
Clearly, for defenders and for the parents of children playing this position this is of paramount interest.
Concussions have been traditionally treated with rest and a graduated return to play protocol (RTP). This protocol has varying levels of success depending on the athlete’s current health status prior to the injury and where their brain was damaged.
New research has emerged that helps us categorize concussions into different types to provide more individualized treatment regimens.
Previously, concussions were all assumed to be the same type, only the severity and the number of concussions were the variables. That has all changed now.
We continue to stay up to date on the latest in concussion and sports injury management and want to keep the readers at Football.com informed as to the best practices in keeping their soccer athletes healthy.
Different Types of Concussions
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center held its annual concussion conference last year during which 37 leading concussion experts from a myriad of different medical fields pushed the envelope of treatment to a whole new level.
They identified six different types of concussions and their respective treatment protocols, allowing those managing the concussed athlete to customize the treatment regimen based on the particular part of the brain that was damaged.
This is groundbreaking in that it allows for more active treatment and recovery of our athletes, which leads to more efficient outcomes.
Being able to identify the six different types of concussions and to understand that athletes can have more than one type with overlapping symptom complexes is critical to proper treatment for head injuries.
The six types of concussions that were identified are: Cognitive, Anxiety/Mood, Migraine, Cervical, Vestibular, and Ocular.
Treatment of Concussions
Once the concussion type or types have been identified, then targeted treatment can be delivered that can be preferable both to the player and to their teams.
It may include a return to activities sooner than was thought prior. It might also involve allowing an athlete to still be with their respective team while they are being treated. The new research has shown that we need to customize our treatment of concussions and it needs to be more active.
Research has shown that technology such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy can speed recovery from concussion by facilitating growth of new vasculature in the damaged part of the athletes’ brain.
There are also targeted nutritional protocols that have been shown to improve recovery and in some cases heal older brain injuries.
For more information on locating a qualified medical professional to evaluate and treat your concussed athlete, please contact me below.
Joseph M. Zappala DC DACBSP
Director of Sports Medicine-South West Health Spine & Sport
Member National Concussion Registry