In September 2015, big wave surfer Shawn Dollar met the challenge of his life. Not a giant wave like those he’s in the record books for conquering, but a boulder he struck when he dove under a wave. The impact broke his neck in four places and gave him a concussion. Fortunately, he made it to shore and then to his car and the hospital without becoming paralyzed.
Within months Dollar’s doctors pronounced him healed, but he was far from well. When he sought help at the Amen Clinics, he was suffering from migraines, intense mood swings, anxiety, a failing memory and more. SPECT imaging revealed why: Like the NFL players’ brains we had examined previously, Dollar’s brain showed the porous pattern of a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Our treatment plan helped him recover his focus and memory; he’s even surfed again, though he no longer rides the big waves.
A blow to the head from a fall, a car accident, a football tackle (or other sports trauma), domestic violence or a combat injury—even if you don’t lose consciousness—can scramble your mind and memory. Your brain is like soft custard, and the skull’s sharp ridges can cause severe damage. Repeated blows, like those boxers and football players often endure, can result in CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which researchers recently found in the brains of 87 percent of the 202 deceased former football players’ brains they examined.
Here is the great news: You can recover from a TBI. We developed a plan, tested it in athletes and published the findings that show it works.
Our protocol for head trauma is part of the Amen Clinics’ new BRIGHT MINDS Program, which identifies and treats the 11 risk factors that can steal your memory and your mind. The risks are summed up in the words BRIGHT MINDS, which makes it easy to remember them:
B – Blood Flow
R – Retirement/Aging
I – Inflammation
G – Genetics
H – Head Trauma
T – Toxins
M – Mental Health
I – Immunity/Infection Issues
N – Neurohormone Deficiencies
D – Diabesity
S – Sleep Issues
If you have had a head injury or concussion (ask your mom if you can’t recall one; in many cases, you won’t remember it) and/or you notice a loss of your sense of smell, it’s essential that you check in with your health-care provider and ask about these tests:
- Functional imaging study of your brain, such as SPECT or QEEG
- Smell test
- Post-traumatic hormone screening (in case the pituitary, the master hormone gland, has been damaged)
Adopt these easy preventive (and healing) strategies:
- Reduce your risk of further head injury: wear a seat belt in vehicles, don’t climb ladders, stay off the roof, do not text while driving or walking
- Consider HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy), a treatment that provides increased amounts of oxygen to your body to stimulate healing
- Look into neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback focused on changing your brain waves to healthier ones
- Put your nose to work: practice smelling essential oils of rose, lemon, close and eucalyptus to help restore your sense of smell
- Take a daily multivitamin/mineral with extra D and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement with EPA/DHA
- Supplement with a combination of ginkgo biloba, ALCAR (acetyl-L-carnitine), vinpocetine, NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine), PS (phosphatidylserine), huperzine A and alpha-lipoic acid
- Use turmeric and peppermint in cooking
- Eat more choline-rich foods such as shrimp and eggs
- Limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods
In the video below, Dr. Daniel Amen discusses head trauma as they “H’ in BRIGHT MINDS:
Be hypervigilant about your brain health and you could be rewarded with excellent recall and many dementia-free years. To learn even more strategies to reduce your BRIGHT MINDS risks, get a copy of Dr. Amen’s new book, Memory Rescue, available HERE.