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.