Outreach: Jay Fraga

5 Dec

tweet-retweetWe are beginning a new program here at TCB.  This one is called “Outreach”; the purpose is to publicize the good (we hope the vast majority) and sometimes the not so good of concussion management and experiences across this vast planet.  One thing I realized real quick in Zürich is that the stories of the bad are relatively the same, usually highlighted in the media.  Meanwhile the stories of good are different and helpful and not heard at all.  I am asking our readers to send in stories of your cases (please be mindful identifying specifics) so we can share.  There are vast stories in the comment section but I would like to bring forward as many as possible.

The stipulations are simple: 500-2000 words with specific situations that we all can learn from and benefit from, email them to us at theconcussionblog@comcast.net and consent to possible editing as I see fit.  It would be nice if you included a bio or frame of reference, but if you would like to remain anonymous that is fine to (however, it would be good if you included something like “licensed doctor in _____ (state)” or coach, athletic trainer, mom, dad, etc.

I love people who are as, or more, active about concussion awareness, Jay Fraga has shown he means business.  He sent in his personal story about concussions, now he is elaborating more on the issue of awareness.  I appreciate Jay’s work and urge others to follow in his footsteps.

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Beating your head against a wall while suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome is probably counter-productive, yet I seem to find myself doing it (figuratively) virtually every day. We live in an electronic world, and in my electronic travels, I frequently “run” into the very people who I’m trying to get my concussion message across to.  The results are typically frustrating and lead me to ask myself why I bother trying to warn people about the perils of concussion.

Searching Twitter with the hash tag ‘#concussion” will provide a comprehensive selection of Tweets that feature illuminating articles and studies about concussion. I find that it also directs me straight to a painful paradox: kids with concussions who’ve been kept home from school on Doctors’ orders in order to heal, yet who are blissfully Tweeting their health away, 140 characters at a time, with the rapidity of an automatic rifle. If I had a nickel for every time I saw something like “Ahhhhhhhh! Home from school. Hate #concussions !”, I’d have the market absolutely cornered when it came to nickels.

RED ALERT!!!!! (DOCTORS and PARENTS- This is where you come in.)

Kids with concussions are sent home because they need full cognitive rest in order to heal. Full cognitive rest cannot occur in a fully lit classroom with any kind of teaching and noise going on. It also cannot occur while your son or daughter is banging out texts and tweets from the comfort of their dark room. The brain needs complete rest in the same way that we need to stay completely off a freshly broken leg.  Sleep with zero exposure to any kind of stimulus is the only way for the brain to get complete rest and to appropriate all of its resources to the process of healing.  If the brain is sidetracked by thought, valuable energy is diverted from the healing process.  This is where it is absolutely imperative, once concussion is diagnosed, for parents to stick their hand out and demand that their son/daughter hands over their phone and make sure that the computer and television stays off.  I believe that it’s important for Doctors to re-affirm this loud and clear before their patient ever leaves the examination room once concussion has been diagnosed.

We all know that our reliance on electronic devices is at a historic high. Personally, I get the shakes if I haven’t checked my phone after a period of time. There is a raging debate about the negative impact of portable electronic use in the context of meaningful communication, social ties, family cohesion, etc. I’m fine letting that particular debate occur. There can be absolutely no debate, however, when it comes to understanding that short-term access to electronics is counter-productive in terms of healing from a concussion.  Anything less is the equivalent of one of our sons or daughters breaking a leg and us saying, “Now, I want you to go to your room and relax. While you’re doing that, it’s ok if you jump up and down repeatedly on your freshly casted leg”.

As we try to enact standards for athletic compliance in schools regarding concussions along with raising concussion awareness, we also need to bring things like the phone / TV / computer problem to the attention of parents, so that their kids aren’t sandbagged from healing from the start.  I would love to see a day where all doctors, across the board, emphatically and verbally drive home the protocol for healing from a concussion rather than leaving some nondescript text in a pack of discharge instructions that might never be read. That would be a great first step in terms of helping to solve the concussion problem.

- Jay Fraga

You can reach Jay through email at jfraga@aggrobikes.com or @aggrobikes on Twitter.

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4 Responses to “Outreach: Jay Fraga”

  1. Keith December 7, 2012 at 11:55 #

    I agree 100%. However, the reality of the situation lies in the misperceptions among concussed individuals and their parents, coaches and teachers. Without a firm understanding (which many do not have, including medical professionals) of the injury and its potential consequences and extended recovery timeline, people will continue to push their mental rest aside and continue neurological stimulation with these distractions (tv, phone, computer etc.). The problem with concussion is that it sucks, the question is, how long will it suck? While most concussion symptoms should resolve in 7-10 days in those in those other than children and adolescents (which have longer recovery, typically 3-4 weeks), this is only a best guess by typically under educated doctors and physicians. The part they fail to mention is that this projected recovery period is an estimated guess based on variables they are unsure of (neurological damage, diffuse axonal injury severity, commitment to mental and physical rest etc.). Concussion recovery is substantially impacted by the management of the injury, including but not limited to: mental rest, limited physical exertion, emotional factors, and the beliefs patients have about symptoms and recovery. So without a realistic view about how bad this seemingly “minor” injury could be and how long symptoms can persist (up to a year), individuals will continue to complain on twitter, chat on facebook and watch tv, all while unknowingly contributing to what could end up being a very long and painful recovery from an injury that might have resolved in a shorter period of time. So, what does this all mean? It means that until we can start changing the culture of attitudes in the general population and medical fields through education, awareness and/or experience, the likelihood of people understanding the importance of staying off the computer or phone will remain low, which is probably how those with concussion will be feeling… for longer than they think.

    • Jay Fraga December 11, 2012 at 07:50 #

      Keith, I wholeheartedly agree. This piece doesn’t exist in a vacuum, however- I wrote it strictly in response to being aggravated while I was on Twitter and noticing just how many kids were Tweeting about their fresh concussions. There are so many people that are trying to raise awareness of the stakes of concussion. Dustin Fink, the owner of The Concussion Blog is just one of them. In addition to this piece, I’ve written a few others and also have a video up on Youtube documenting my experiences with Post Concussion Syndrome.

      In any event, I agree with you, and I hope that the sum total of all of these small endeavors is to raise awareness to all of the issues and effect change.

  2. Pat Nelson December 7, 2012 at 14:50 #

    As a parent of a high school freshman football player who suffered a concussion this season, I understand this message. After medical diagnosis of a consussion, his treatment was 3 weeks of full brain rest. No school attendance, No class work, no homework, electronics limited to 2 hours a day (1 hour of tv and 1 hour of text, video, or computer) It was hard to understand what is needed to repair the brain as a Cat scan or MRI does not show any damage. There is no cast or brace to assist in the healing process. Out of 57 students players the team had 12 concussion diagnosed. That is 12 to many. I am trying to raise funds to replace the current helmet (maybe have a #2 rating) with efficient helmet (#5) to the team

    • Glenn Beckmann December 11, 2012 at 16:18 #

      Pat,
      Do not rely on a dubious star rating system to make the final decision to upgrade your helmet. The MOST IMPORTANT factor in choosing a helmet is that it fits your son the best. An old, properly fitted helmet is going to protect his head better and perform better than a brand new, improperly fitted helmet.

      You can read elsewhere in the archives on this blog regarding my issues with the star rating system. Needless to say, we believe it is flawed as it places far too great of importance on the cumulative effect of normal, every-play type of hits and does not take into effect nearly enough the immediate damages high velocity impacts can have. In purely simplistic terms, any “study” in which the least expensive youth helmet would score better than ALL THE OTHER HELMETS tested should not be considered a valuable resource in choosing a helmet.

      NOCSAE, the helmet industry’s standards body, says the same thing.

      Glenn

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