HBOT: Hope for Sports-Related Concussions

Published on
July 11, 2019

Whether you are a former professional NFL football player or a rising star on the high school football team, concussions and TBIs have become a big problem in the United States. And it isn’t just limited to football. Sports like cycling, soccer, skateboarding, rugby, and even cheerleading see numerous cases of concussions each year. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 2.8 million TBI-related emergency room visits occur every year, with the majority of those being mild TBIs, or concussions. The good news is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, has shown success in treating sports-related concussions and reducing symptoms. Hyperbaric oxygen helps the brain heal!

Concussions are a Bigger Problem Than Originally Thought

Football helmet and brain model

For many years, concussions were swept under the rug, so to speak, with the idea that a little rest was all that was needed to recover. In many cases, a player that received a simple ‘ding’ to the head during a game was told to shake it off and return to play. Unfortunately, science has shown this is not the case. Simple, minor concussions can be a much bigger problem than we originally thought and leaving concussions untreated can lead to long-term symptoms and complications. The damage to the brain must be treated and allowed to heal, especially when an athlete has a continual risk of concussions.

For this treatment, many athletes are turning to HBOT. This non-invasive treatment option lets you relax in a chamber while increased levels of oxygen do the work. If you are interested in more information, contact our office today and see how HBOT can help you!

Let’s take a look at exactly what a sports-related concussion is, how it can affect the brain, and just how hyperbaric oxygen works to help the brain heal!

A Concussion is Actually a Traumatic Brain Injury

a chalkboard reading "concussion"

When most people think of a concussion, they think of a simple bump or blow to the head that’s no big deal. What they don’t realize is that a concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury. Any injury that causes a direct hit to the head or body that essentially causes the brain to shake inside the skull causes change and damage to the brain. While that simple ‘ding’ may seem like nothing, concussions can have serious and long-term effects, even if the concussion was minor and did not cause a loss of consciousness. When the head experiences a jolt and the brain bounces within the skull, this creates chemical changes in the brain and can stretch and damage brain cells, resulting in a variety of symptoms. Symptoms can occur immediately or appear a few hours to even weeks later.

Symptoms Associated with Concussions

If you have sustained a blow to the head and have experienced any of these symptoms, it is likely you have a concussion and should seek medical attention. Not all symptoms will occur for everyone, and some symptoms can develop days after the initial injury. Unfortunately, there is no diagnostic test, such as x-ray or imaging, that can show you have had a concussion, so reporting symptoms is essential. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of Balance
  • Amnesia
  • A glazed look in the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Loss of memory
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Inability to multi-task or complete mental tasks
  • Trouble with sleep (Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Mood changes

Treating a Concussion Minimizes Long-Term Complications

A single sports-related concussion typically requires a couple of weeks rest to allow the brain to return to normal. The brain uses lots of energy to rebalance chemical levels and repair damaged cells within the brain. Unfortunately, over-exertion during the recovery period can lead to months or years of symptoms, often leading to Post-Concussive Syndrome. If you suffer from a second concussion before your first concussion heals (often common with athletes), a condition known as Second Impact Syndrome can occur. This causes the brain to experience massive swelling and can be life-threatening. Seeking immediate medical treatment when you suspect a concussion leads to a greater chance of healing and fewer complications.

HBOT Helps to Heal the Brain After a Concussion

A man preparing for HBOT

When it comes to concussions and long-term symptoms, the damage in the brain must be addressed. When a concussion occurs, blood vessels in the brain sustain damage. This limits the oxygen supply the damaged area needs to repair itself. As mentioned above, the brain needs lots of energy to heal after a concussion, and oxygen is necessary for that process. When oxygen is limited, the brain is unable to make necessary repairs, resulting in continued symptoms. This is where hyperbaric oxygen plays a significant role in the treatment of sports-related concussions. By sitting inside a hyperbaric chamber and breathing in 100 percent oxygen at an increased air pressure, the oxygen is able to get into the brain, help create new blood vessels, and promote recovery.

Studies Show How HBOT Heals the Brain After Sports-Related Concussions

A 2013 study looked at the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on 56 patients with post-concussion syndrome that had been suffering for 1 to 5 years after the initial injury. Patients received 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, 5 days a week for 60 minutes with 100 percent oxygen at 1.5 ATA. After treatments, researchers saw significant improvement in cognitive function and quality of life. SPECT imaging also revealed elevated brain activity after hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

Another report from 2011 looked at two cases of concussions/TBI. The first patient was a former NFL player in his early 50s. He had experienced numerous concussions during his career. One resulted in an emergency shunt brain surgery, as well as two other brain surgeries. The second patient was a high school football player that had two concussions two weeks apart and was experiencing numerous symptoms, as well as losing the ability to read at all. Both patients received 40 sessions of HBOT, 5 days a week for 60 minutes with 100 percent oxygen at 1.5 ATA. Both patients saw a reduction in symptoms and a return of normal cognitive function after HBOT treatments.

At the end of the report, Stoller states that “the time has come for the orphan therapy (HBOT) to be adopted and for it to take its place as a standard practice for treating both acute and chronic TBI….this benign, humanitarian, and non-invasive therapy is recognized as a quintessential tool for treating brain injury; after all, oxygen is what the brain fundamentally feeds upon.”

If you have suffered a concussion and are still experiencing symptoms, give our office a call. Let hyperbaric oxygen therapy help your brain heal after a sports-related concussion! Call us today to set up an initial consultation and create a treatment plan that will work for you. Help your brain heal and reduce the risk of serious, long-term complications! Learn more about HBOT, Sports-Related Concussions, and TBIs HERE.

Long-Term Complications Associated with Sports-Related Concussions and HBOT Helps

A brain showing signs of injury

For those that experience repetitive concussions and brain trauma, a long-term complication is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This is a degenerative brain disease that occurs as a result of repetitive trauma. In these cases, a protein called TAU forms clumps within the brain, destroying brain cells. Symptoms of this condition can develop years after repetitive concussions have stopped. Symptoms are similar to concussions but progressively worsen. This leads to impaired physical and cognitive abilities, severe mood changes, suicidal thoughts, and progressive dementia. While doctors and researchers work to develop accurate tests to diagnose this condition, the only accurate way to confirm CTE is through autopsy.

Again, with CTE, HBOT is showing promise. The above-mentioned report from Stoller and the former NFL player is a prime example. Increased levels of oxygen from hyperbaric oxygen therapy give the brain the ability to heal, resulting in reduced symptoms and better quality of life.

When it comes to sports-related concussion treatment, hyperbaric oxygen provides the best results when administered during the acute phase. While HBOT does show results treating a concussion years later, the sooner you receive treatment, the better. Call our office today to set up an initial consultation and start helping your brain heal! Click HERE to fill out our online information request form.