As a chiropractor, post concussive syndrome is not an unusual thing to see in our office following trauma such as a motor vehicle accident.
For the patients that develop post concussive syndrome, life can be pretty miserable.
Symptoms can include:
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Short term memory loss
- Problems sleeping
For most, the symptoms fade in a short period of time (usually within a month or so). For others, problems can last as long as a year, although they seem to fade with time. And then there is the small subset of patients with post concussive syndrome that develop long lasting, chronic complaints. If the trauma is significant enough, seizures can result years down the line.
Car accidents are only one cause of post concussive syndrome. Falls, workplace traumas and sports injuries like soccer and football collisions add sufferers to the list.
When the initial injury occurs, there is likely bruising in the soft tissues of the brain. In a perfect world, the immune system comes in and cleans up the mess without any problems. With the bruise, there are damaged red blood cells that have released iron. Iron, when bound up with hemoglobin within the cell, is a good thing and helps us to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The dark side of iron is released when it becomes free iron unbound to the hemoglobin molecule. Now the iron is free to begin a cascade of damage to tissues in the area, setting up a feed forward cycle of oxidative stress.
Having written a book on migraines and epilepsy I can tell you that this oxidative damage is not a good thing in the brain.
At rest, the nervous system, which includes our brain, is the greatest utilizer of energy in the body. Once we start moving, the muscles take over and have the greatest need.
Imagine that. As you sit here reading this, your brain is requiring mass amounts of energy just to process the information. So what does this mean? It means that each cell of the nervous system requires thousands of mitochondria just to generate the energy needed for a brain cell just to perform its basic functions. And each of these mitochondria are little factories churning out ATP for the brain cell to use at an enormous rate.
With this model, anything that harms the mitochondria and interferes with a brain cell’s ability to make energy will contribute to brain problems. The oxidative stress caused by the free iron can start this damaging process.
This particular article suggests that this process may be the key to the difference between resolution of post concussive syndrome and the development of chronic problems. If this relationship holds true (and there is no reason to think that it would not), then there may be some things you can do to protect your brain should this happen to you.
While my book goes into protecting the brain in detail, here are some supplements that can help:
- Magnesium, especially the threonate form, has the potentially to protect the brain.
- Vitamin D
- Antioxidants like coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and
- Vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols, NOT just alpha tocopherol)
So, while there are no guarantees in life, it might make sense that, in anyone suffering from post-concussive syndrome, protecting your brain with some or all of these supplements might be a good idea.