David Ash, Football, and Head Injuries
Written by Dr. Evan Pulver
Longhorn fans woke up this morning to find that UT quarterback David Ash is leaving the game of football after his concussion in week 1 against North Texas. In days past, this may have drawn criticism of Ash’s toughness or ability to play at the Division I level. But the days of shaking it off and the “no pain, no gain” mentality is diminishing as players and their families are realizing the long-term health impacts of these injuries. The NFL and NHL are now donating funds to research Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), as they are hot issues in the news and with the former players of those sports.
As a former (backup) quarterback and now as a foundational chiropractor, seeing these issues on my newsfeed with such a high frequency and being asked about these issues made me want to put down some information in writing.
Here are some ideas to consider regarding head injuries:
The G-force (1 G is equal to the force of earth’s gravity) of many big hits in the NFL are measured at over 150 G’s. That puts a force of approximately 30-60 G’s on the helmet of the receiving player. To give you some comparison, check out these G’s:
Walking- 1 G
Shuttle Launch- 3 G’s
F-16 fighter jet roll- 9 G’s
Concussion- 100 G’s
Big time NFL hit- 150 G’s
RISK OF CONCUSSION:
The risk of receiving a concussion increases after having one. The risk for long-term neurological damage also increases with each subsequent concussion. If you or your child has had a concussion, you will need to be on alert for the symptoms of additional injuries. After missing the 2013 season due to concussion, it was unfortunate to see David Ash suffer another in game 1 of this year. He was given medical clearance to play, but the risks were still there.
A rear end collision of 8 MPH results in a 5 G force on the occupant’s head. 20 MPH results in a 12 G force. A frontal impact of 40 MPH places a force of 46 G on the occupant. In one study done on primates, a 5-G force to the heads of the primates resulted in a 50% probability of brain stem injury, cerebral concussion, and cranial nerve stretch.
The hits seen on Friday nights in Texas or on the college/professional level can be compared to a series of car wrecks. The forces are the similar or greater. The difference is that with a car accident, ambulances are called and trips to the urgent care are made. With hits in football or other contact sports, it’s usually shaken off so the athlete can be in the next play.
THE UPPER CERVICAL SPINE:
The forces required to cause a concussion are not isolated to the skull. These forces are also transferred to the spine. The most vulnerable point of injury to the spine is the uppermost bone in your neck, the atlas or C-1 vertebra. This critical bone has much more freedom of movement than the other bones of your spine. It is held in place by soft tissues- muscles, tendons, ligaments- rather than bony structures as are the other vertebrae. This creates a susceptible point for injury or foundational shifting of the spine away from normal. While concussions make the news for their serious health implications, the damage to the neck and spine have long-term implications. In studies of motor vehicle victims suffering soft tissue injuries, 62% still had significant injuries 12.5 years later. Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “It’s just an old football injury”?
ARE YOUR KIDS AT RISK?
Do you have children playing competitive sports? While their heroes playing on Sunday afternoons may risk their brains and necks to win games and earn their paychecks, your child does not have to.
Tips for your child:
1. If your child is playing a contact sport, make sure they are not putting themselves at excessive risk. Taking plays off or sitting out of practice is OK if they have a hard fall or collision. If the coach disagrees, have them call me.
2. Taking Omega-3 supplements is good for everyone, and it is especially good for neurological development. Think of adding a high quality supplement to your child’s diet and increasing their intake of wild caught fatty fish.
3. Have your child checked for Foundational Shifts of the spine. Displacement of the spinal vertebrae further stresses the nervous system, and proper foundational alignment will help with injury recovery and prevention.
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Dr. Evan Pulver