I am a strong advocate for concussion awareness. A while back I predicted that concussion would be a story with legs, not just because of the Will Smith movie Concussion released late last year, but because of the strong connection to sports icons and the power of their voices.
Fast forward nearly five months and the story keeps on giving, and not because I have a crystal ball. Hardly a week goes by without news about concussion, but it has evolved from covering the courtroom battles involving professional athletes to the heart wrenching stories of ordinary folks whose lives have been changed forever as a result of brain trauma, or who have suffered the ultimate tragic outcome.
A missing thread in these stories is any good news and sadly, I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Last week was no exception. A study published this week in the Journal of Neuropsychology reports that concussions in pre-schoolers can be blamed for strained relationships with their parents and can impact their overall social skills. The research was conducted by investigators at Montreal's Ste-Justine Hospital and the Université de Montreal and helps create a foundation of scientific evidence about an age group that has been generally overlooked, and yet is at considerable risk of traumatic brain injury.
The story made the front page of the Montreal Gazette and deserves high marks in raising awareness of the seriousness of concussion, especially in young developing brains. It's a warning call for parents and describes what to look for if their little one is concussed.
To think that any parent reading the article would not become more vigilant about monitoring any physical or behavioural changes is pretty much a no brainer. What I can't wrap my head around is the overarching message of "watchful waiting". This take-away strikes me as both passive and incomplete in light of strategies that currently exist in best practice concussion management and treatment recovery.
Don't only tell me about the problem -- give me solutions. Tell parents what we can do.
Is it a stereotype to blame the media for reporting bad, negative or worrisome news? I get that what makes news is drama, disaster, tension and crisis, but as a father of three what I really want to learn about is what I can do to help protect my children in terms of prevention and recovery. More often than not, that part of the story gets left on the cutting room floor.
Scandal, ignored emails, blame, lack of accountability, accusations of mismanagement of the problem and litigation make for exciting content when it comes to our beloved national pastimes. The news is titillating but falls short of helping people, including the 130 children who participated in the study.
You might feel better knowing that many health professionals work in the concussion space and have been able to have an effective impact in maximizing recovery and functional abilities. Along with medical doctors who are able to diagnose concussion, there are individuals with specialized education and training in brain-based therapies who take an integrative approach to maximizing recovery.
Would it come as a surprise that simple, non-invasive and inexpensive technology is available to test your child's brain function and give you a baseline report? Imagine having a benchmark that you can refer to in the event you suspect a concussion -- not only for when your child starts participating in sports, but just enjoying the activities of daily living?
We fingerprint our children in the unlikely event that they might go missing. Let's get our schools to get behind baseline testing in the more likely event that children will experience a concussion in their lifetime.
While testing is one positive tactic, we can do a far better job at expanding awareness and information about options for recovery treatment, available resources and common sense instructions that help parents deal with the physical and psychological ramifications. Who wouldn't appreciate guidance on how to talk to your child after a concussion, as well as when they can resume their normal activities and some do's and don'ts about playing safely?
The message here is that parents can be proactive and, more importantly, empowered to explore both preventative steps as well as support for recovery. And if not for the littlest sufferers of concussion, then for whom?
Dr. Aubry Tager DNM, BCIM, DAAIM, CAFNI, is a Doctor of Natural Medicine (Naturopath) with more than 15 years of experience in integrative medicine. He is a diplomate of the American Association of Integrative Medicine and Board Certified Integrative Medicine through the American Academy of Integrative Medicine. He holds a post doctoral certificate from the American Functional Neurology Institute. He is the owner of Neurologix Integrative Health in Montreal.
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