The hidden dangers of concussion awareness


When a legitimate problem finally gets recognized for the problem it is, there is a tendency in human nature to swing the pendulum waaaaaay over to the other side and overcompensate for previous ignorance.

The concussion awareness pendulum

A few years ago people with persistent concussion syndromes were not taken seriously. And kids–especially young boys–were told to “man up” and “walk it off” and go back to playing with a head injury.

But now, things are moving in the opposite direction, and this may not be a good thing for a couple of reasons.

But first, let me offer the usual disclaimer: concussions are very serious. The signs should be well-known to coaches and parents. And kids need to be pulled from games if an injury is suspected. Not least because some concussions are actually mild spinal cord injuries (think swelling around the spinal cord, not a Christopher Reeves kind of injury).

Likewise, follow up after the injury is important for a full concussion assessment.

Now that that’s been said, let’s take a look at where the pendulum is swinging too quickly in the opposite direction.

A couple of things are happening.

Concussion awareness leading to fun suppression?

1. Some bureaucrats are coming out saying that kids aren’t allowed to do anything anymore that could increase the chance of a concussion.

With the debilitating reality of post-concussion syndrome for some people, it’s only natural that organizations are afraid of a lawsuit.

One of the major reasons we are becoming aware of post-concussion induced disease is due to a class-action lawsuit by former NFL players against the NFL.

As soon as some of these cases start shaking out, and there is a better understanding of the disease process, you’d better believe there is going to be a whole new cottage industry of personal injury cases.

School districts, club soccer programs, and theĀ  like (and the people that insure them) are already planning for the possibility of being taken to court due to concussion injury under their watch.

This is why many, many sports programs now have parents signing concussion waivers. But you can’t have a waiver for all possibilities.

And, unfortunately, the preventive plan by some people who run the programs that educate and care for children is to restrict rather than educate.

For example, a school in Long Island recently banned footballs, and a few other items to prevent kids from the kind of rough and tumble play that can lead to a concussion injury.

The intention is good, but there will be unintended consequences.

In a day and age when recess and gym class are being edged out for more test preparation, and kids are heavier than they have ever been, it seems like there might be better way than banning footballs for everyone.

With concussion awareness, whiplash injuries can be overlooked

2. With everyone thinking concussion, whiplash injuries are being overlooked.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And the new toy gets all the attention.

With new awareness about concussion, and potential risk-exposures for kid’s sports programs, etc (see above)–more unidentified concussions will be identified as concussions.

But there is a problem with that.

It will be very easy for doctors to forget that concussion symptoms are also the same symptoms of other injuries, like whiplash injury. (See the YouTube video above.)

And the mechanism of injury that causes the concussion is also the same one that causes a whiplash.

Because of the new concussion awareness, post-concussion patients will not be told that their neck was probably injured in their concussion and it should be examined too.

They will have the same problems as former Chicago Bear and Super Bowl Champion Jim McMahon, who did have multiple concussions, but who also had multiple whiplash injuries to the neck. (Read how McMahon found healing through gently correcting mis-alignments in the neck.) Post-concussion syndrome is not only in the head. Symptoms can be coming from the neck.

And these kinds of patients need to see someone who looks at the head and the neck–and doesn’t separate what’s happening in the skull from everything else in the body.

Are you or someone you know suffering with the persistent symptoms of post concussion syndrome? An unrecognized injury in the neck may be preventing resolution of some or all of your symptoms. If you are in the Detroit Metro area, you may contact me via the author box below. Or by calling my office: 248-598-4002.

Written by Dr. Ward

Father. Foodie. And dedicated upper cervical chiropractor. Find me practicing gentle upper cervical care in Oakland County, Michigan. Have a question or comment? I'm at your service. Reach me at my Auburn Hills chiropractic practice: (248) 598-4002. Or on Google +, Facebook, or Twitter.

One Response to The hidden dangers of concussion awareness
  1. Dr. Tom Campbell
    January 8, 2014 | 4:18 pm

    Concussions can be a very serious issue and are not to be overlooked. However, I really enjoyed reading this refreshing take on how concussion awareness may not always be a good thing. I have a lot of patients who ask me as a health care professional whether their child should play contact sports or not due to the prevalence of concussions. Of course this decision is always ultimately up to the parents this may not be a bad post to share with them illustrating a different thought perspective.