In her story, “New concussion treatments go beyond just resting in a dark room,” (Washington Post, Apr 11, 2016) Christine Kilgore lays out the current trend toward getting young people up and moving sooner following a concussion than has generally been the standard approach to recovery. Rather than simply resting and avoiding too much mental activity, some physicians are recommending what she calls “physical therapy for the brain.” In this model, specific therapies are directed at specific symptoms of concussion, which can occur over weeks to months, and last for years.
It is critical to understand that a brain injury triggers a cascade of damaging physical, metabolic and neurovascular changes. These can manifest in myriad symptoms that appear and change over time. Targeting specific symptoms may be an improvement over and waiting for the brain “right itself on its own,” as described by Dr, Brooke Pengel of the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver. However, none of these therapies address stoping or reversing the underlying brain damage.
HBOT rapidly delivers high levels of oxygen to all tissues of the body, especially the brain. It has been proved to reverse the inflammatory processes and metabolic disruption the immediately follow concussion. It also restores neurological function in stunned brain tissue and drives improved blood delivery. Research and clinical experience have shown HBOT to be safe and effective in treating head injury, and should be the first line of care for any serious concussion. Healing the underlying damage sets the stage for whatever models of therapy and rehabilitation ultimately are found to be most beneficial. But, so long as the underlying damage persists, it will be very difficult to determine what other interventions are effective, and when they should be recommended.