The New Zealand public is largely unaware that concussion injuries can also affect the spine and this is especially of concern in young athletes, according to the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association.
According to Dr Hayden Thomas, chiropractor and spokesperson for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association, concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, occurs from a blow to the head or violent shaking, with approximately 24,000 cases in New Zealand every year. It is a common injury in sport, with most individuals recovering in 7–10 days but some have persistent symptoms of dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following a sport-related concussion.
Dr Thomas explains: `We have had a number of reports lately where chiropractors have seen individuals with head injuries, some of which have been diagnosed with concussion, but our members have been shocked that most of the people affected did not understand the neck and spine were also traumatised by the blow to the head. Many people also don’t realise the link between upper neck dysfunction as a possible cause of headaches and dizziness which often gets passed off as coming from the mild traumatic brain injury but responds well to chiropractic care.
`It is paramount the cervical spine and nervous system are checked with any such injury to the head. We know that concussions occur in all contact sports with the highest incidence in rugby, soccer, hockey and basketball and that youth athletes may have a more prolonged recovery and are more susceptible to a concussion accompanied by a catastrophic injury. A greater number, severity and duration of symptoms after a concussion are predictors of a prolonged recovery.’
Dr Thomas points out that New Zealand is leading the world in research into the neurological benefits of chiropractic but that work related specifically to the chiropractic management of concussion in sport is a nascent area of investigation in need of more funding.
He notes: `Recent work looking at a combination of cervical and vestibular therapy, which is also carried out by chiropractors trained in sports medicine, shows that there is decreased time to medical clearance to return to sport in youth and young adults with persistent symptoms of dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following a sport-related concussion.
He adds: `Chiropractors commonly encounter concussed athletes in clinical practice and we encourage our members to understand the importance of using standardised concussion assessment tools and current concussion guidelines.’
Athletes should be aware that chiropractic care to restore the proper function of the spine and nervous system can help in the post-concussive situation and also in the maintenance of spinal function and optimum sports performance.
Peter Boyes, 027 554 0500 or email@example.com