September is the beginning of football seasons from Pop Warner to the NFL. Football, along with other sports, has been the focus of many articles for the last few years highlighting the potential brain damage players (TBI) sustain from repetitive head-to-head collisions during a game.
The awareness of this danger has led to former players suing the NFL, rule changes to penalize players engaging in head-to-head tackles, and even causing players to retire from the game after considering the risks. In 2015, Baltimore Ravens lineman John Urschel noticed he was having difficulty completing advanced math problems months after receiving a concussion. Coined “NFL’s Smartest Man”, he had to weigh the risks of playing football and his future. A few months ago, Urschel decided to retire after only 3 seasons in the NFL and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Millions of people are affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI), but athletes and young people aren’t the only ones who suffer from TBI. TBI can be caused by a car accident or a fall. The effects of TBI are long-lasting and can be frustrating. Hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, or crowded spaces can make life very taxing. The start of the holiday season is only a couple months away, so let’s consider what a holiday party or family gathering is for someone with TBI. Usually there are loud conversations, music playing in the background, and a lot of people in your space. It’s tough to manage all that overstimulation!
There is a little bit of news good news in that the brain has a unique ability to reorganize parts of itself through a process called neuroplasticity. Once brain cells have been damaged, the brain is unable to regenerate those cells. But by engaging in healthy brain habits – such as increasing physical exercise or learning a new skill – the damaged part of the brain is able to get help from healthy parts to restore function. Along with stimulating the brain and eating the proper foods, there is another clinical intervention that can help with the symptoms of TBI.
For example, neurofeedback is an intervention that uses computer technology to provide feedback from the brain’s electrical activity to train brain circuits to communicate more effectively. It is a painless and non-invasive process. While neurofeedback will not grow new brain cells, it can train the brain to improve memory, attention, reduce symptoms of overstimulation, and problem-solving deficits caused by TBI.
Living with TBI is difficult but by becoming sensitive to the needs of the person, we can provide the best support and information for our friends and loved ones.
By Derek Russell, MA, NCC – Neurofeedback Therapist, Technician at The Better Brain Center. If you would like to get in touch with Derek please call 833-964-8483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.