Floating for Head Injuries
“The concussion crisis has changed the face of sports as we know it, and it has brought to surface the incredible importance of our brain health. The time is now for us to make our brain the number one priority so that education and awareness can take effect and begin to change the way we approach the health of our athletes from youth to professionals.”
-Ben Utecht, former NFL Player
A few years back, a research assistant from the University of Utah contacted me to participate in a research study (I was a bit of a lab rat in college). He said the lab wanted to scan my brain in order to compare it to others who had suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI). He asked if I’d ever suffered any TBIs. I didn’t think so, but ran through some experiences just to be sure. In that brief conversation, the research assistant identified no fewer than four experiences during my childhood involving symptoms consistent with a TBI. He told me my scuffs and falls as a boy possibly changed my brain so much I may have never fully recovered, even though they were long ago.
I had no idea those events could still be affecting me, and it turns out I’m not alone. We’re finding brain injuries are much more common, and can have longer lasting effects, than we once thought possible. Just this last July, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition caused by repeated hits to the head, in 110 out of 111 former football players.
That is a worrisome statistic considering over one million high schoolers and tens of thousands of college players donned pads and helmets last year. Then there’s rugby and lacrosse, mountain biking and skiing, and all the other contact and extreme sports that we love so much. Those activities take their toll. Approximately 1.6 and 3.8 million concussions occur every year due to sports and recreation injuries. Some of us don’t even realize when we’ve had one.
Concussions occur when the head is struck abruptly, causing the brain to slosh back and forth in the skull. Symptoms can include blacking out, headaches, nausea, confusion, and memory loss. Sometimes there’s long-term nerve damage. I have a friend, for example, who experienced a concussion two years ago and his eyes still don’t track together (He's going to come out to Park City to spend some time with us at our center. I'll definitely let you know how he does.).
Concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries, classified as such because they are not life-threatening. They can, however, be life-altering. Fifteen percent of people who suffer from mild traumatic brain injuries have symptoms lasting over a year. Some symptoms, like my friend’s, persist much longer.
Floating: The Best Medicine
With all our technology, the best treatment for a mild traumatic brain injury like a concussion is still good, old-fashioned rest. Not just resting the body but resting the brain. Doctors often recommend people recovering from a mild TBI limit activities requiring thinking or focus. Floating deprives the brain of much of the stimuli it experiences in the outside world, so brain activity greatly decreases. The mind can reach deep, healing levels of relaxation.
At SYNC Float Center, we recommend the same concussion protocol used by Virginia High Performance, a performance center in Virginia Beach that has led the way in floating and concussion research. Founded by a couple of Ex-Navy SEALs, Virginia Performance Center has used floating to help hundreds of military servicemen and women recover from brain injuries experienced in the line of duty. Using their protocol, they have been able to relieve symptoms from events occurring as many as six years ago.
Living in such a beautiful state with so much wonderful recreation, we Utahns have ample opportunity to enjoy activities we love, but should be mindful of our brain health and knowledgeable about what to do in case of an injury. Please remember to wear your helmet, brush up on the signs and symptoms of a head injury (and make sure your friends know too!), and see a medical professional as soon as you can if an injury does occur. Then, once the dust (or snow) has settled, please come see us. We’d be happy to help.
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