New Doctor, Different Results: Tracey Mayer

21 Feb

Parent Advocate, Tracey Mayer will be offering up her writings to The Concussion Blog as a resource to the readers, especially the parents out there.  As time allows she will be submitting posts for you to read.  I truly hope that everyone gets a chance to read about concussions from yet another perspective.  Thank you Tracey!

My son, Drew, suffered a severe concussion during a freshman high school football game in September, 2008, and has not played football since.   He would have stepped back on the field the next week and would still do so if he was allowed to.   It was not his first concussion, but it was clearly the most severe.  My earlier posts on here explain the details of what he has gone through.  Clearly, he has made tremendous progress, but he still has some cognitive difficulties.  He also suffers from migraines, which are typically provoked by intense focusing or from being hit on the head.  It does not happen often, but there have been a handful of incidents over the past 2 years.  Two weeks ago, he was elbowed in the head very hard during a basketball game, which resulted in a migraine with major fatigue that lasted for 4 days.

Drew saw a leading neuropsychologist out of Loyola who is an expert in concussive injury last week.   I chose to not reveal his name because my purpose of this post is to show the gaping differences in opinion amongst concussion experts.

This doctor has very black-and-white opinions.  Without knowing anything about Drew as a person – his personality, his behavior, his history in any capacity, he very clearly stated that based on the fact that Drew was injured as a high school freshman and did not sustain any bleeding, his brain fully recovered from the concussion within a relatively short period of time.  It is his opinion that Drew’s current symptoms, as well as his symptoms over the past 3 years are 100% psychological in nature, including his migraines.

He believes the ONLY football players suffering from long-term problems are those who suffered a brain bleed and/or played college and pro ball and have sustained a high volume of hits to the head.  He said our brains are meant to be knocked around a decent amount.  He does not believe that a hit to Drew’s head now could result in a long-lasting migraine with major fatigue, and he said it is in no way related to him having suffered concussions.

When I asked his opinion about the high school athletes who have committed suicide after sustaining concussions, he said a lot of high school kids commit suicide, and the research shows it cannot be attributed to a concussion.  As far as the pro athletes who are taking their lives; he said many celebrities live very abnormal lives and some of them cannot handle the pressure.  He said there are some active and retired players experiencing early stage dementia as a result of too many hits to the head, but he does not believe there is a link between concussions and suicide.

He dismissed second impact syndrome, and he said he does not think the brain needs to rest after a concussion, in fact, he thinks it can be counterproductive.  He does not support formal academic recovery policies in high school because he does not think they are needed.  He said the athletes who have suffered concussions in high school and had to drop out of college due to cognitive impairments are not suffering from any such issues, but rather it is psychological.  He does not think CTE has anything to do with repetitive hits to the head, and he discounted some of the research SLI has done.

We ended our visit with him recommending that Drew see a cognitive behavioral psychologist, as well as establish a relationship with a counselor when he begins college next year.

As you can imagine, Drew and I walked out of there stunned and very confused.  He looked at me and said “Mom, there is no way I am making these things happen to myself….I know I have gotten a lot better, but the stuff that is still happening to me is real.  I love football more than anything in the world—why would I make it impossible for me to play? ” Right now, he is still processing all of this– as you can imagine it is a lot to absorb—for all of us.  I am shocked to know there is such a massive variance in expert opinion when it comes to concussions.  On one hand, we have expert doctors telling us what Drew has and is experiencing is real, and now we have an expert doctor telling us exactly the opposite.

 

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39 Responses to “New Doctor, Different Results: Tracey Mayer”

  1. Kevin February 21, 2012 at 18:47 #

    Has this doctor been living under a rock for the last four years? Mrs. Mayer, this doctor should thank you for not mentioning his name because he would definitely be out of business. If you ever see him again tell him that I had a brain bleed and second impact syndrome from playing football and have been fortunate enough to have no post concussion syndrome effects. I hope your son Drew continues to make progress in his recovery! Best wishes

    • Tracey Mayer February 21, 2012 at 19:49 #

      Hi, Kevin

      I am so sorry that you suffered such a dangerous injury. You are blessed to have made a full recovery.

      He told me that he has been involved in concussion research for the past 15 years, and they have studied about 20,000 athletes. His opinions are based on the results of the research.

      I understand that researchers tend to be very black-and-white, but, as we all know, many things in life come with exceptions. For him to say unequivocally that Drew’s brain is completely healed is frightening. All doctors will agree that the brain is very complicated, and the study of it still holds many mysteries.

      I should have asked him if he believes in the condition of post concussion syndrome…..something tells me he would have said no. I wonder what he thinks about the possible correlation between Lou Gehrig’s Disease and CTE.

      I certainly have not been living under a rock since Drew was injured, in fact, I have been very involved in concussion awareness and education. I co-chaired the first SLI fundraiser in Chicago last year, and we raised $75,000 earmarked for concussion education, which is now being used to fund the CCC (Chicago Concussion Coalition) seminars in the city, a platform used to educate coaches, trainers, parents, athletes about concussions.

      I will keep fighting for Drew and all of the other athletes who have suffered concussions, as well as those who have not. After three years of battling, I am pleased to say that our high school is now in the process of developing a formal academic recovery policy for concussed students. We rank #6 in the state of Illinois academically, so it’s time that we step up and are the leaders in this area as well.

      Thank you for your kind words to Drew…I will be sure to pass it along.

      Tracey

  2. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist February 21, 2012 at 21:16 #

    Re Drew’s reported recent experience- the below excerpt is from my 2004 Dissertation entitled:

    A Preliminary Investigation of Active and Retired NFL Players’ Knowledge of Concussions

    Below is some core history re the notion of TBI and Postconcussion. Furthermore please note the paragragh that begins:

    “The authors also reported that some physicians, who had personally experienced concussions themselves, changed their beliefs regarding the origin of postconcussion syndrome from a psychological basis to a physiological basis.”

    TBI and Postconcussion: Many Years of Controversy ( Pages 33-34)

    Approximately 50% of persons who sustained a TBI experienced postconcussion syndrome (PCS), which manifested itself in various symptoms that were not present in the person prior to sustaining the concussion (Bazarian & Atabaki, 2001). Although controversy exists pertaining to the existence of PCS as a direct outcome of sustaining a minor TBI, more sensitive brain-imaging techniques such as SPECT, PET, and functional MRI have documented an organic basis for the symptoms (Bazarian & Atabaki, 2001).

    The term postconcussion evolved from early conceptions of a concussion as an entirely reversible syndrome without detectable neural pathology. As such, the prefix post literally meant after [the event] (Gasquoine, 1997). Agreement does not exist on how to conceptualize the concept of post concussion syndrome or even if the syndrome exists. According to Evans (1987), symptoms attributed to the effects of a concussion may also be called postconcussion syndrome. Rutherford (1989) advocated for the dropping of the prefix post, and thus called the collection of presenting symptoms the concussion syndrome. The author also argued and pointed out that since fractured ribs-related pain is not labeled “post rib fracture” pain, concussion-related symptoms should not be perceived as postconcussion symptoms. Furthermore, since some symptoms of a concussion and post concussion are similar, it is not easy to recognize when a concussion ends and the postconcussion syndrome begins (Wills & Leathem, 2001).

    McClelland (1996) emphasized that PCS is not a simplistic concept and thus cannot be exclusively categorized within either a psychological or physiological framework. He also cautioned about applying a dualistic mind-versus-body approach to the syndrome. Robertson (1988) voiced similar concern regarding adherence to either/or views when he declared, “polarized opinions of causation [of PCS] are foolish” (p.413). He also reiterated Symonds’ 1942 perspective that it is extremely difficult to distinguish between an organic and psychological basis of concussion because the concepts seem to be closely woven together.

    Strauss and Savitsky (1934) are credited with coining the phrase postconcussion syndrome (Evans, 1994), and they posited that not only may a concussion occur without a loss of consciousness, but that it has an organic basis. In their extensive 63-page review of the topic, they emphasized the importance of documenting clinical observations and of not quickly attributing vague or unusual findings to functional/psychological origins. The value of the clinical judgment was also highlighted in the following statement: “Results of tests and exact quotients cannot take the place of the opinion of an experienced clinician” (p. 912).

    The authors also reported that some physicians, who had personally experienced concussions themselves, changed their beliefs regarding the origin of postconcussion syndrome from a psychological basis to a physiological basis. Discussions among various physicians also gave credence to the existence of PCS: They reported similar clinical features and symptoms in their patients who neither conversed with other patients nor lived near each other. A more recent neurosurgeon’s personal experience with a concussion revealed that the doctor not only experienced long-term attending-to-task problems but also required more energy to complete various designated tasks (Marshall & Ruff, 1989).

  3. Tracey Mayer February 21, 2012 at 22:13 #

    Thank you, Dr. Brady. I am going to send your excerpt to the doctor and will let you know what his response is, if any.

    Tracey

    • Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist February 21, 2012 at 23:28 #

      On April 15, 1948, the Board of Trustees of Loyola University of Chicago unanimously approved a resolution to designate this school as the Stritch School of Medicine in honor of the deceased Samuel Stritch, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago. (info obtained on the Internet)

      13 years later a similar looking, and perhaps sounding, last name authored the below, and now classic, article pertaining to the shearing of brain nerve fibers as a result of suffering a concussion.

      Strich, S. J. (1961, August 26). Shearing of nerve fibers as a cause of brain damage due to head injury: A pathological study of twenty cases. The Lancet, 443–448.

      The Summary of the article found on page 448 of The Lancet began:

      “Diffuse severe degeneration of the white matter may follow a closed and apparently uncomlicated head injury [brain injury], leaving the patient permanently incompacitated, and more or less demented. ”

      I urge viewers of this Blog to read and reflect upon the contents of this 51 year old historical article that appeared in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.

    • Still working forward July 10, 2012 at 12:51 #

      Hi Tracey,
      Your blog is marvelous and I am just hoping a response is still viable. My son has been suffering post concussion for 3.5 years post a school sport event. I would dearly like to touch base and I commend you for what you have accomplished. As an educator, school has sadly been one of our biggest challenges, second only to the medical world.

  4. presentlypostconcussion February 22, 2012 at 10:11 #

    I can relate to the confusion of hearing different advice from different Docs. I am almost a year with post-concussion syndrome (from my 1st concussion) and have sought the advice of many different professionals. Everyone seems to have a slightly different opinion on what the problem is; some have said the problem is just with my neck, others will say nothing is wrong with my neck but the pathways in my brain are damaged. Some have said complete rest is the best option while others want me to increase my activities as much as possible without further aggravating my symptoms. I think if they all could agree on one thing; it would be that there is still a lot of “grey” area on treatment of lingering post-concussion syndrome and more research is needed in the area!

    • tracey mayer February 22, 2012 at 19:14 #

      You know your body better than anyone. Listen to it. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your judgement. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to challenge the docs.

  5. A Concerned Mom February 22, 2012 at 17:56 #

    I believe the science isn’t settled, and that there is room for different opinions (I agree more with SLI though). One common thread which has come up over and over again in the personal accounts I’ve read has been the association between multiple hits, a lack of congitive/physical rest, and post-concussion syndrome. It may be possible that after an initial period of rest to allow for healing, some concussed individuals could benefit from exercising (is it SUNY Buffalo protocols?), and that some could benefit from cognitive stimulation, providing such exercise and stimulation are kept below the point of provoking symptoms. I can’t find any common ground with respect to his beliefs about formal academic recovery policies not being necessary, and I fear those types of beliefs can result in actual harm to students suffering from concussions.

    • tracey mayer February 22, 2012 at 19:11 #

      Undoubtedly, the science is not settled, and there will always be different opinions amongst doctors, in general. I can say, with certainty, that many of the doctors are still flying blind, and a lot of them find it difficult to say “I don’t know” when they don’t know something. As well, egos can get in the way. Consequently, they form an opinion and give advice. When talking about the fundamental mainstay of a human being, the brain, this can be a very slippery slope. If something doesn’t feel right to me, I don’t accept it, but what about the people who don’t have the wear-withal to keep fighting….what happens to them?

      One of my many concerns is that this doctor made his opinion unwavering – he didn’t say, what I would do next is spend some time with Drew and get to know him, and then I will make an assessment – or this is what I think Drew is MOST LIKELY suffering from…..he said, in so many words, I know nothing about Drew’s personality, history or lifestyle, yet I will say, hands down, that his symptoms beyond the 3 month mark post-concussion have been psychological, not physiological.

      He breezed through the results of the neuropsychological tests that Drew took 3 months post-jury and again at the one year mark in less than one minute. I honestly don’t think he looked at anything. He said he would not have re-tested him a year later, then dropped the papers down on the table and said he would not do any additional testing at this time–because his symptoms are psychological.

      Our high school will be the first in our area to implement a formal academic recovery policy, and we will shine for doing it. I will see that a press release is blasted to the media the day it is formal.

  6. Kevin February 22, 2012 at 18:32 #

    Awesome work Mrs. Mayer! I strive to raise awareness about concussions like you are doing, very impressive!

    • tracey mayer February 22, 2012 at 19:16 #

      That is great, Kevin. Concussion awareness and education is very much needed, and I am glad to know you are getting involved!

  7. Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist February 23, 2012 at 00:16 #

    I1- I personally believe there is both a science and art involved in comprehending concussions, and that a knowledge of concussion history literature and clinical observations is essential…so we may learn and acquire wisdom from this history…a history that overflows with controversy.

    Re controversy:

    While completeting my Dissertation Research I was taught by my mentors that all thorough research involves knowing that controversy typically exists on many ‘scientific’ topics…and to also become familar with the controversy…and that this controversy is partially what we call varying theories …

    ===============================================================

    2- Another excerpt from my Dissertation (pgs., 34,35) re Controversy follows:

    Evans (1989, 1994) and Roberts (1988) elaborated on the notion of the post concussion syndrome (PCS) construct being entrenched in controversy for several hundred years. Evans also stated that current controversies pertaining to concussions are comparable to injuries and their respective symptoms that persons reportedly sustained in railroad-related accidents during the mid to late 1800s in the United States and Europe (Caplan, 1995; Erichsen, 1997; Keller, 1995). Reflected in the numerous terms utilized since the mid-1800s to describe the present day postconcussion construct, these controversies range from acknowledging to disputing the existence of the syndrome, and they include a debate as to whether its etiology is organic or psychological/functional. Evans also pointed out that the physiological basis of the postconcussive syndrome is becoming increasingly well-documented by abnormalities found in pathologic, neurophysiological, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological studies. (1994, p. 5).

    Postconcussion symptoms were once labeled accident neurosis as the symptoms were originally thought to be primarily related to secondary gain (Brown et al., 1994). After an extensive review of literature relating to mild brain injury studies, Brown et al. concluded post- concussional symptoms existed and that the “preponderance of the evidence favors the conclusion that concussed persons are at risk of developing cognitive, vegetative, and affective-behavioral sequelae, some of which affect day to day life” (p. 21). Levin, Benton and Grossman (1982), as cited in Reitan and Wolfson (1986), pointed out that current available evidence regarding postconcussive syndrome favors the view of concussion as a severity continuum of diffuse injury (Reitan & Wolfson, 1986, p. 15).

    —————————————————————————————————————————

    3- From my perspective the below quote from my Dissertation is very revealing…naysayer M.D’s opinions re an organic basis of concussions flip flopped…once these same M.D.’s suffered the effects of a concussion…thus these same M.D.’s embraced a physical/organic basis for concussions

    “The authors also reported that some physicians, who had personally experienced concussions themselves, changed their beliefs regarding the origin of postconcussion syndrome from a psychological basis to a physiological basis.” (p. 34)

  8. A Concerned Mom February 23, 2012 at 07:51 #

    I’m advocating for the implementation of formal academic recovery policies, and fear the department of education will point to contradictory views. Based on my experience with my son, we found a modified version of “cocoon therapy” helpful (cognitive rest breaks after school in a darkened room). We also supplemented with fish oil/increased fish in diet and implemented a moderate daily walking program at the suggestion of a sports specialist. The articles I found on cocoon therapy are a few years old, yet seem reflective of the current debate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Local-doctor-has-novel-approach-to-concussions-190953.php

    http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Concussion-treatment-not-backed-by-evidence-201571.php

    It’s been too many years since I studied statistics, but can’t help wondering if there is some confusion between correlation and causation (maybe the kids that missed more school had worse injuries, and that’s why they had worse outcomes). In the end, we did find that when my son avoided headache triggering activities at school, it seemed to help him recover.

  9. Dorothy Bedford February 23, 2012 at 08:29 #

    It’s safe to say that many of us are shocked by your experience, but sometimes dead ends are useful as “negative information,” as the research crowd would say. My 18 yr old daughter was in PCS for 14 months from ice hockey (which is how I connected with SLI and MomsTeam) We also occasionally received wondrously bad advice/instructions. She still has some lingering effects, but we are moving through college applications OK. Looking forward to your thoughts on formal academic recovery policy, so that a concussed student’s brain can get appropriate rest and healing can be that much faster. Our NJ Concussion Legislation (2011) incudes specific academic accommodations to be considered for any concussed student, thanks to neuropsych Rosemarie Moser.
    Link here: http://www.nj.gov/education/aps/cccs/chpe/concussions/policy.pdf (See page 5 for specific list of academic accommodations all NJ school boards were to consider. ) In my district ( Princeton) since I sit on the school board, we also added “assessment accommodations,” meaning some/all testing could be waived completely if necessary, in favor of other means of calculating a grade.

    • tracey mayer February 23, 2012 at 10:17 #

      Thanks for sharing the information about your policy–it’s great to see more schools implementing them. When Drew was injured, the sole basis for measuring his need for accommodations was based on the neuropsychological testing results. Quite often, the child’s symptoms do not match the type of testing that is done, therefore the test results may not be accurate. This is what happened in Drew’s case, and he was not offered any formal accommodations, despite the fact that he went from being an A/B student to flunking exams.

      Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia has a policy that serves as a great template for other school districts. I am hoping to see continuing education classes offered for teachers so they are kept up-to-date, as the information surrounding concussions is constantly changing.

      All the best to your daughter for a full recovery.

  10. Dorothy Bedford February 23, 2012 at 10:17 #

    Afterthought: The CDC published a pretty thorough piece specifically for school professionals on concussed students returning to school. Parents and athletes should read it too. Consider putting it up in the training room. A good starting place to win over the non-believer administrators, especially in states without enacted concussion legislation : http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/pdf/TBI_Returning_to_School-a.pdf

    • tracey mayer February 23, 2012 at 10:35 #

      The CDC pieces are very good and easy to interpret. Our school district requires both the athletes and parents to sign off after reading several educational documents like this before the athlete can participate in sports. We hope they are actually taking the time to read it and not just signing.

      I’ve been tossing stuff at our school district administration for quite some time. Although they do not often reply, I know it has made a difference. We live in a large district, which comes with a lot of red tape, and even the simplest of things can take quite some time to get done. I sit on one of Mayor Emanuel’s councils (Chicago), and am constantly amazed about the channels things have to pass through before they are completed.

  11. John Badalamenti February 24, 2012 at 03:01 #

    I’m Graduate Industrial Design student currently working on my Graduate Thesis: Improving Player Safety in Contact Sports. I’m specifically targeting this very topic addressing concussions in High School Football players.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and comments. While I don’t suffer from any post concussion symptoms, I can relate well to the issue at hand. I played football in high school, and during my freshman year (2001) I got a concussion from a much larger, stronger, faster, (presumably senior) opponent. My concussion went unattended to, my coaching staff was unconcerned and preoccupied with managing the rest of the team, and we did not have the training staff at the time to see if I was OK. I played the next set of downs feeling my brain bouncing inside my head as I ran, and out of this raw discomfort, I sat myself out of the game only to get mildly heckled by some of my peers.

    The mismatch between Freshman -to- Senior athletes proved to be a continuous safety concern throughout the season for many of the parents. Combined with our team’s losing record, they retired the football program the following year.

    I’m interested to know (from your parental perspective) what would need to happen for you to feel comfortable with your son playing High School Football?

    I appreciate any of your valuable insights / feedback that could be implemented as I design a solution for my Thesis project. Best wishes to Dorothy’s daughter, and your son Drew’s recovery.

    Please feel free to reply here, or contact my by email found on my website.

    • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 15:11 #

      Hi, John
      In response to your question “what would need to happen for you to feel comfortable with your son playing High School Football?” —-

      Based on Drew’s experience, I would never feel comfortable with him playing football again. If I try to put myself in the position of being a parent with a child who is just about to begin playing high school football….knowing what I know now…..

      The Illinois Concussion law that has been passed would provide some comfort knowing the new legislation requires student athletes with concussions to get a doctor’s approval before returning to the game. There would have to be mandatory concussion awareness training for all coaches, athletic trainers and athletic directors, as well as for the athletes and parents.

      Baseline testing would be necessary, as just one form of assessment. I would want an athletic trainer accessible during all practices and games. I would also want the number of hits during practice and the length of summer practices to be regulated, with practice cancelled if the temperature exceeded a certain level.

      From an academic point-of-view, I would want to see that the administration and school staff was educated about concussions, including continuing education classes for the teachers. It would be important to have not only a formal return-to-play policy, but also a formal academic recovery policy.

      If you have any other specific questions, please let me know. You are welcome to email me through my website as well.

      • John Badalamenti February 26, 2012 at 15:24 #

        Thanks Tracey for your excellent insights, and good validation for the direction I’m looking to take with this project. You bring up a great point about the academic & administrative concerns as well. I’ll be sure to share the final solution with you (its due in 8 weeks).

      • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 15:30 #

        My pleasure, John. I look forward to reading it.

  12. tracey mayer February 24, 2012 at 13:40 #

    Hi, John

    I’m in NY for the day – will get you some of my thoughts once I return.

    Our high school has Freshman, Sophomore, JV and Varsity football teams, which helps balance the size of the players, although sometimes the kids are still very mismatched in size. Drew was a running back, and was about 5″9″ and 140 lbs. as a Freshman. When he was injured, he took a double hit in the head on the same play – one from the front, and one from the rear. One of the guys who hit him was a huge offensive lineman. He recently signed with Wisconsin, and currently checks in at 6″4″ and 290 lbs.

    More later…….
    Tracey

    • John Badalamenti February 26, 2012 at 15:02 #

      Thanks Tracey, that sounds like an impressive HS football program. My school was extremely small, so the lines between JV and Varsity were pretty blurred.
      If you have any additional thoughts about what it would take to make HS football safer please share. I’m very interested in parent’s perspective.
      -John

      • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 15:15 #

        We must have been typing at the same time! My response is above.

  13. Jake Benford February 25, 2012 at 12:18 #

    A quick comment about science being “black and white”, this is not accurate, much like a concussion. Research is subject to a lot of interpretation and therefore can be very subjective.

    Medicine is also not black and white, and is more art then science.

    The reason you will get many different opinions from physicians is because our understanding of concussion is very limited. Dispite the research that has been done and the date we have, we still have more questions then answers. Untill we have a concrete, objective way to diagnose and treat this injury, you will have very different opinions depending on who you see.

  14. brokenbrilliant February 26, 2012 at 10:23 #

    Mrs. Meyer,

    First, sorry to hear about that experience. It sounds like it put the trauma back in your son’s mild traumatic brain injury. It’s happened to a lot of us. In retrospect, it might be useful for you as it highlights how recognized experts can at times be very much at odds with each other, and ultimately we need to be our own best advocates and judges. Your son is lucky to have you — a lot of us don’t have anyone to do a reality check with, and we end up wading through a lot of muck all alone.

    I did want to offer one thing I’ve observed in my own experiences (and this is in on way intended to validate what the doctor told you). Psychological reactions can actually compound the effects of concussion — it operates through mechanisms of stress (I believe, based on my readings and personal observations). When we get stressed about something – when we’re worried or concerned or in a state of perceived danger, our bodies can biochemically “shut down” parts of our nervous system. It’s a perfectly normal response, and that’s how we’re built. That stress reaction helps our minds focus on only the most important pieces of information in front of us — it discards all the rest.

    Now, while this is helpful when escaping a burning building, when you’re recovering from concussion/tbi, it can compromise the human system’s ability to rebuild new neural connections. When you’re worried, stressed, or under a lot of duress, you literally don’t have as much of yourself to access, as when you’re in a balanced state.

    That being said, psychological reactions can affect concussion recovery, but managing stress and keeping the nervous system in a balanced state can go a long way towards recovery. There are lots of ways to stimulate relaxation and engage the rest-digest part of the nervous system to facilitate healing. Getting away from unhelpful doctors is a start ;) Progressive relaxation, steady breathing, light exercise, and some forms of meditation have helped a lot of people.

    Just wanted to mention that — it’s helped me tremendously and turned around my situation dramatically after years and years of post-concussive issues that trace back to childhood injuries. I can honestly say that this information and putting it into action has changed my life 180 degrees for the better. And I wish all the best to you and your son in your continued endeavors.

    • Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist February 26, 2012 at 11:21 #

      My understanding is that the brain directly affects physical, cognitive and emotional aspects of a person. Unfortunately much of sport-related concussion management focuses on only SOME of the physical symptoms, more recently and sparsely on cognitive rest, while the emotional rest aspect is typically and grossly ignored.

      Lezak (1995), a well known neuropsychologist, pointed out that a review of neuropsychological-related research pertaining to brain injury, found that cognitive functions have received more attention than physical and emotional/behavioral effects ( p. 21). Lezak further noted that brain damage rarely affects just one of these systems as the disruptive effects of most brain lesions usually involve all three categories

      Thus emotional feelings are directly tied to/ influenced by the brain’s physiological function…and separating emotional feelings from both the brain’s function and dysfunction is an erroneous separation of mind from body. Suggest you read Dr. A. Damasio’s 1994 text entitled: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason. and the Human Brain for a further elaboration of some of these notions.

      The brain’s direct physiological relationship with emotional feelings serves as the rational for Flo and mine’s recommendation found in our 2011 NASP published Sport-Related Concussion article for emotional rest…and a corresponding period of relaxation and minimal stress….that ideally should be a lifelong goal.

    • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 14:33 #

      Thanks much for sharing your experience, and thank you for your kind wishes.

      • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 14:34 #

        Oops Dr. Brady – that response was meant for someone else. Once again, thank you for your insight.

    • Tracey Mayer February 26, 2012 at 14:38 #

      Thank you for sharing what you have experienced, and thanks for your kind words…….I will pass them along to Drew,

  15. Marla Swanger July 5, 2012 at 08:25 #

    I’m scared to death. My son has been sufferring from post-concussion syndrome since November of 2012. We made it through the school year with many struggles. He is approaching is senior year in high school and I’m so afraid what to expect. He was taken off the meds for the summer and within two weeks he had a dizzy spell and stroke type symptons on his right side again. He always says he is ok, fine, alright but I know it is not normal, it is not side effects from the meds because he had these spells before his body adjusted to the medication. His last appointment with the concussion clinic where he has been seen for the year talked as if they were going to release him from their care and I don’t know where or how to help him. He is not better, and I know he will probably not play football again but I need to get assistance in stablizing his daily life so that he can be successful his senior year and head to college. Any advise on meds, therapies, how to find doctors, dealing with school system would be greatly appreciate.

    • joe bloggs July 5, 2012 at 10:11 #

      It is not ethical to offer medical advice on a blog. Your son’s case is obviously complex and the first step is to identify a clinical center of excellence as close to you as it possible. You will need identify a top neurologist to take on the case. (Places like Johns Hopkins [MD], Cornell-Weill Burke Rehab [NY], Kessler [NJ], Cleveland Clinic [OH], Washington University [MO], UCLA and USC (CA) etc.) You need to organize your son’s medical and school records so you can inform the intake doctor regarding your son’s case so they can determine the best means of examination and treatment.

      You have been on a long road and it will have twists and turns. Every brain injury is unique and often requires more than one doctor to find the right direction.

    • Tracey Mayer July 5, 2012 at 11:30 #

      Hi, Marla

      I agree with Joe’s comments. Have you searched for a neurologist whos expertise is concussions?

      As a parent, you must advocate for your son when it comes to his academics. Does your school have a formal academic recovery policy for concussed students? My son was injured nearly 4 years ago, and we had to fight like crazy to get him the help he needed at school and for ACT testing. He still suffers from migraines as a result of his consussion and, as such, he will receive academic accommodations when he starts college in the fall.

      The good news is that awareness and education have progressed tremendously since Drew was injured and many schools now have formal recovery policies in place, not only for returning to sports but for academics as well. It is critically important that you build a team of experts who work as a unit to help your son recover.

      Although I cannot give you medical advise, I can share with you what we have done to get Drew the academic support he has needed. I’d be happy to talk with you if you think it might be of help.

      Stay strong,
      Tracey

  16. Still working forward July 10, 2012 at 12:54 #

    This blog is very insightful. Is it still active? Can I still contact some of the responses and in particular Tracey?

  17. Still working forward July 10, 2012 at 12:57 #

    Sorry I entered the blog inforomation in February… just seeing July — keep up the marvelous blog. I have a child who sustained a concussion and still suffers numerous problems including post concussion which the medical world with few exceptions to date locally say can’t take place.

    • Tracey Mayer July 11, 2012 at 12:42 #

      I am happy to help in any way I can. Specifically, what type of support do you feel you need at this point?

  18. Educator Mom July 12, 2012 at 13:59 #

    As I read these new entries from new parents, I am reminded how many of our young people are struggling through this injury. And yes we have made strides in identification and treatment of concussions but there is still so far to go. My son is now 18 months post injury and continues to struggle with headaches. fatigue, memory deficiencies, and visual tracking issues. We have had fairly good medical support from his neurotrauma clinic (once they realized he was going to have more long term issues), but the academic aspects of his life have been a different story. We are teachers and we still have to fight for every ounce of support and help we can get for him in the classroom. Following this blog has been very helpful. And I have had to research and access helps from our state’s Department of Education and local organizations that help advocate for families with children who have a disability. I have had to educate myself on the law regarding 504 Plans and Special Education. I communicate with the schools via e-mail and save everything in order to document. Knowing the law and documenting everything has helped us get some leverage to encourage the school to meet our son’s educational needs. You can’t ever give up and know that what you achieve may not only help your own child but may help someone else’s as well.

    • Tracey Mayer July 13, 2012 at 17:57 #

      It is very complicated, especially since many schools do not have formal academic policies/plans in place. It took us 1.5 years to get a formal 504 plan for Drew, which allowed him 50% more time on tests. Although that was helpful in allowing him more time to process information and reduce stress, which in turn helped to minimize the onset of a migraine, he also struggled with memory. All the time in the world did not help if he simply could not remember what he had studied.

      Has your neurotrauma team put together a formal request for your son’s academic needs? Do you have a psychologist as part of that team?

      For a long time, I was the only one begging and fighting the school for help. No parent should have to take on that role. Of course, having documentation come from a medical professional is going to have a completely different impression upon the school, as opposed to it coming from a parent, as that can often be misconstrued as making excuses for poor performance.

      I put the pressure on the school board and emailed the Superintendent on a regular basis– sending hm anything and everything pertinent to concussion awareness and education. He would usually respond by telling me what was already being done in our school district, and I would say that’s great but it’s not enough. I’m sure he wanted to puke when he kept seeing my emails, but that’s ok.

      In January of this year, our school finally implemented a formal academic policy. It was developed by a team, including our principal, one assistant principal, the lead trainer, school nurse and school psychologist. After so much pushing and pushing, it was great to see this happen. Unfortunatley, it all happened to late for Drew to benefit from it, but we are very pleased to know the other students will have this much needed support.

      I also have a lot of media contacts from my line of work, and I tapped into them as much as possible to shed light on the issues and, more specifically point out what needs to be done.

      I could type pages and pages……it’s much to difficult to put into writing. I’d be happy to speak with you and share more of what has worked for Drew. If you’d like to talk, you can email me at tm@traceymayer.com and we can set up a date/time.

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