Investigating the research that has been done in South Africa alone will give the surprising result that for 20 years at least the results of all the studies have produced a red light – in particular relating to school boy sports, rugby and to a lesser extent soccer, with regard to mild traumatic brain injury. In particular Prof Shuttleworth-Edwards at Rhodes has been taking a long hard look at the situation and the picture that emerges is not pretty.
What she has shown is that concussion is not taken seriously at school sport level. These young people are under pressure to play, and of course love the sport and want to stay on the field. So they will minimise their symptoms and return to the field prematurely. A five year study shows that in spite of the four or five month gap between rugby seasons, young rugby players are showing signs of cognitive decline year on year. This means that their brains are not recovering from the impacts they sustain through the season. When they return the following year and are tested for their baseline levels (against which they will be tested if they have a suspected concussion during the season) their baseline scores are declining year on year. Their brains are showing signs of permanent loss of function.
The research also highlights how little we know about the implications of on-going blows to the head. How do we differentiate between concussion and brain injury? The distinction is unclear. Why are concussion sufferers susceptible to severe and even fatal injury when they sustain a subsequent blow, often a seemingly small impact? Does this also indicate that they are not healing as well as we had believed?
At Neurobalance we are interested in these questions because of the situation that we see in our offices daily. When we map a brain, the concussion markers are often quite distinct, and they can relate to injuries that were incurred many years before. Although the brain has healed, the brain activity is still related to the healing phase. The brain is still protecting itself from an old injury, producing a wide range of symptoms.
The good news is that during training these concussion markers from old injuries generally resolve quickly and the client feels relief.