Treating Concussions with Neurofeedback
Sports are a great way for children to get rid of all that extra energy and learn valuable skills like working with others, leadership and respect and an appreciation for different abilities. However, even with all of these benefits, sports provide an increased risk for concussion. In fact, the CDC found that 1 in 7 teens had a sports concussion last year.
If your child has a concussion, it can be quite scary, but most concussions heal within one week with rest. It is important to allow the brain time to heal before returning to normal activities, and a trained concussion specialist can help determine how quickly to increase activities.
If symptoms are not better after 30 days, your child may have postconcussive syndrome, which indicates a more serious injury that requires more than just rest to recover. Fortunately, new frontiers in science are leading to improvements in brain rehabilitation for PCS. One of the most exciting discoveries is a technique known as neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is a technique using electrical activity in the brain recorded by and electroencephalogram. A quantitative EEG is used to compare a client’s brain activity to a database of normal activity. In this way, abnormal activity caused by the concussion can be identified and specific goals for training can be identified. During neurofeedback training, when activity is in the target zone the client is rewarded. If activity falls outside the normal range, the reward goes away. The reward can be a tone, an animation or game that plays or stops, or a movie that fades in brightness and volume depending on the activity. Sessions typically last 30 minutes and occur at least twice per week. It is important that the person conducting this treatment is a clinical healthcare provider who is licensed to treat cognitive and emotional problems.
Children involved in sports should get some type of baseline testing. Many athletes are familiar with the IMPACT Test, which measures cognitive functioning and is often given to entire teams at the beginning of a sports season. In my work with traumatic brain injury over the past decade, I have found no other approach that improves cognitive, behavioral and emotional symptoms of brain injury like neurofeedback.
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Common Postconcussive Symptoms:
Balance problems/ Dizziness
Feeling like “in a fog”
Sensitivity to light or sound
Feeling slowed down
Poor emotional control
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It can’t be a concussion if I didn’t lose consciousness. In fact, any sudden jarring of the brain, such as whiplash, can result in concussion. The best indicators of concussion are feeling dazed or disoriented, or having memory problems around the time of the injury.
Concussion symptoms show up immediately. Symptoms can actually show up hours or even days after the injury.
If I have a concussion, I should rest in a dark room until all symptoms have cleared. We now believe that after a few days of rest, gradual increases in activity are actually good for recovery. A concussion specialist can help monitor symptoms and determine how quickly you can return to your normal activities.