Concussions and TBI
There are approximately 1.7 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. annually, and an estimated 300,000 veterans who have sustained TBIs from the conflicts in the Middle East. On top of this, there are hundreds of thousands of unreported incidents of head trauma, including undiagnosed concussions each year. Unfortunately for many of those who sustain them, brain injuries that don’t result in a loss of consciousness often go unnoticed and are never treated.
Dr. Amen and the physicians at Amen Clinics are very knowledgeable about the consequences of TBI and concussions – and how to identify them and heal the brain. In fact, Dr. Amen was consulted for the movie Concussion because of his expertise in this area of medicine.
Ask yourself if you have ever:
- Played football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby or hockey?
- Fallen out of a tree, down the stairs, off a horse, a bike or a skateboard, or crashed while skiing or snowboarding?
- Been in a motor vehicle accident (even a simple “fender-bender”) or physically assaulted?
Have you ever:
- Had your “bell rung?”
- Blacked out for a few seconds?
- Seen stars?
- Felt dazed or confused for a minute?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, or developed any behavior problems after hitting your head, you may actually have injured your brain—even if you didn’t get diagnosed with a concussion.
Did you know that you don’t have to hit your head to injure your brain?
The brain is a magnificent organ; however, it is very soft—literally the texture of soft butter. The skull is very hard in order to protect the brain and there are many sharp boney ridges inside, which hold the brain in place. When you hit your head or when your head bounces around enough (as in a whiplash injury), your brain collides with the inside of the skull, causing damage.
While some people develop symptoms immediately following a TBI, others find their symptoms emerge over a period of weeks or months. As a result of this delay, the underlying cause of the symptoms is often forgotten and not uncovered. Many times, doctors simply don’t ask about possible injury to the brain or actually look at the brain with imaging. Instead, the problems are frequently attributed to a psychiatric condition and the person is treated with medication.
Common symptoms of mild to moderate TBI and concussions:
- Difficulty with concentration and paying attention
- Memory problems
- Difficulty with word finding
- Mental and/or physical fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Sensitivity to noise and/or light
- Angry outbursts
- Increased anxiety
- Social isolation
- Vision problems
- Balance problems
At Amen Clinics, we not only ask you many questions about your history, we look at your brain to help us understand what is really going on.
Brain SPECT imaging is one of the best tools available to identify areas of the brain hurt by TBI. A CT (“CAT”) scan or MRI will tell you if there is any damage to the anatomy or structure of your brain, but these scans cannot tell how your brain is functioning. In fact, many times a CT or MRI will be normal after a TBI, when there is actually functional damage to the brain that can be detected with SPECT.
Using SPECT to differentiate TBI from other disorders, such as PTSD
Some symptoms of TBI overlap with those of other conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where sleep problems, irritability or anger, concentration problems and social isolation are commonly found in both. Because of this, people can be misdiagnosed and given the wrong type of treatment if no one actually looks at their brain.
Two research studies published in 2015 by the research team at Amen Clinics, in collaboration with scientists from UCLA, Thomas Jefferson University, and the University of British Columbia, were able to differentiate PTSD from TBI with high accuracy using SPECT imaging. This achievement was recognized by Discover Magazine as #19 of the top 100 science stories of 2015. This research paves the way for people suffering with one or both of these conditions to get the correct treatment.
How Amen Clinics can help with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions
The Amen Clinics Method—developed through 25 years of clinical practice—uses a detailed clinical history, SPECT imaging to understand brain function, neuropsychological testing and often laboratory studies to fully understand what is going on for each of our patients. We combine all the data from your evaluation to create a targeted treatment plan specifically for your brain using the least toxic, most effective means.
85% of patients treated with the Amen Clinics Method experience improved quality of life after just 6 months of treatment.
Tips to Help Keep your Brain Safe:
- Always wear your seatbelt when in a vehicle
- Avoid high risk sports and activities where you can hit your head
- Don’t do “headers” in soccer
- Always wear a helmet when on a motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, snowboard, skis, or rollerblades; however, it’s important to know that a helmet doesn’t prevent TBI if you hit your head, but it can help protect your skull from getting fractured.