The Micheli Center Concussion Seminar:
On Saturday, August 15th, I (Varun) had the opportunity to attend a Concussion Seminar at The Micheli Center. The Micheli Center is the sports injury prevention sector at Boston Children’s Hospital and one of CAN Recover’s partners. The diverse group of attendees consisted of doctors, physical trainers, research fellows and of course, CAN Recover team members. Dr. Meehan kicked off the session with a medical overview of what a concussion was. Although I have a good understanding of what happens when someone is hit, it was refreshing to hear it again. Not to mention, I was able to learn more about what leads to a concussion. For example, a concussion is not typically caused by the linear acceleration of the brain, but specifically the rotational acceleration of the brain. This was an important concept to grasp, because of the effect it has on the brain. While presenting the medical side, Dr. Meehan also mentioned that a car accident and whip lash can also cause a concussion. It’s something that doesn’t seem obvious at first thought but makes a lot of sense. Typically, concussions are heard of in the context of sports, but we also forget there are other cases where a concussion can present itself. Unfortunately, concussions aren’t as obvious other injuries such as a broken arm, so it is harder to pin- point the issue. But it is also not something that should be taken lightly.
After Dr. Meehan’s segment, Dr. Howell presented the research that he and others have been involved with. It was great to hear how much research is out there and that there are people devoted to learning more about this invisible injury. One particular research study that resonated with me coming out of Boston Children’s Hospital, was their Gait/ Balance testing. For those recovering from concussions, sensors demonstrate a person’s walking formation through a series of activities. One video Dr. Howell shared, the participant seemed to be walking straight in one angle but when you took a bird eye view, the participant was wobbling quite a bit.
After learning about the research initiatives, Dennis Borg, an athletic trainer at The Micheli Center demonstrated some exercises to strengthen the neck and core muscles. The purpose of these exercises is to better condition and strengthen the body for situations where it will be exposed to any head movement. In addition to the strengthening exercises, Dennis and another trainer demonstrated a different method of using the agility ladder which emphasized the importance of looking up while running. The demonstrations relayed the theme of spatial awareness which is important for concussion prevention.
Lastly, Dr. O’Brien provided an overview of concussion prevention from the perspective of someone who supports athletes on the sidelines. I found it to be very interesting that if there is a suspected head injury, he won’t bench the athlete right away for the rest of the game. He runs some necessary tests to ensure that the athlete is ready and safe to get back on the field. Dr. O’Brien that delved into the debate for time someone should take to return to school or to play after a concussion. He explored the cocoon therapy which simulates complete rest for a number of days, which we learned in reality; too much rest can be ineffective. It’s important that those undergoing recovery, slowly get back into the groove of things and simulate the brain in appropriate amounts.
It was very interesting to hear about each speaker’s perspective and experience with concussions. The seminar had a refreshing feel to it as the emphasis was on concussion prevention and the amount of effort that is invested in furthering the knowledge through research. This was a great learning experience and I look forward to many more to come.