Concussion- Head and Neck Injuries in Australian Football

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Jan 21, 2016

If you play or have played football, pay attention … and I mean all codes of football including rugby league, union, and especially Aussie Rules and soccer. In April 2015, a US federal judge ruled that the National Football League (NFL) is liable for $1 Billion in damages to be awarded to retired professional gridiron players who currently suffer a myriad of health problems including Motor Neurone Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis , Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

1,2 There is a growing body of evidence that these neurological conditions are linked specifically with a history of head trauma and/or concussions

3,4,5 (It is terribly important that I stress that a concussion does not always result in a loss of consciousness!)

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Whether it is American Football or any of the codes of football played in Australia, the type of injuries and the consequences are the same. A 2006 study by Delaney et al concluded the following: “The mechanisms of injury for concussions in football are similar to previously published research on professional football players.

The mechanisms of injury for concussions in soccer are similar to past research on Australian rules football and rugby.”5 One of the most well known NFL players leading the charge in post-concussion awareness is Jim McMahon, former quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Mr. McMahon suffered three confirmed concussions during his 15-year career; however, is certain that he suffered many other severe collisions that went undiagnosed and untreated.

After retiring from the NFL, Mr. McMahon who was only in his 40s began to experience debilitating migraines and dementia. “There were times I was in so much pain I wanted to kill myself,” Mr. McMahon said in an interview with the Stamford Press.3 McMahon sought answers for years before seeking care with Dr. Scott Rosa, an Upper Cervical specific chiropractor in New York.

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Dr. Rosa identified that Mr. McMahon had a significant misalignment of his C1 (atlas) vertebra, which supports the skull and protects the brainstem. Using an upright MRI, the misalignment was found to be disrupting the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which bathes and protects the brain, and the result was a massive buildup of pressure that was the source of Mr. McMahon’s pain. After the first specific chiropractic adjustment of his atlas, Mr. McMahon noticed a massive difference.

"It felt like a toilet flushed in my head. I felt better immediately," McMahon said. "The only time I felt better before that was when I was lying down, so I stayed in bed most days." McMahon has since become a huge advocate for Upper Cervical specific care especially for amateur and professional athletes, who play a sport that involves head or neck trauma. Neck injuries (including whiplash), head trauma and concussions are serious sporting problems even when there are no apparent symptoms to suggest so.

Too often these problems are left for years, causing severe and irreversible damage that when discovered is too severe to correct. It is estimated that 1 in 30 boys who play amateur football suffers a concussion.8 However, it is unknown if these boys are properly assessed post-injury … and that includes an Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic assessment.

Upper Cervical care is a specific, specialized form of chiropractic that examines the relationship between the upper vertebrae in the neck—the atlas and the axis—and how they affect the health of the brain stem. It is imperative that this area of the body functions properly for optimum health.

Especially for people who play contact sports, it is even more imperative that they are checked regularly—much like seeing a dentist—to ensure that in the course of playing the sports they love that they do not suffer an injury that will come back to haunt them years later. If you play or have played a contact sport and would like to schedule a free consultation, please fill out the form below or give us a ring at the office: 07 3188 9329. We will be delighted to help you.

  2. Guskiewicz K, Marshall S, et al. Association between recurrent concussion and late-life cognitive impairment in retired professional football players. Neurosurg, Oct 2005;57(4):719-726. doi: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000175725.75780.DD
  3. McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, et al. Review: what is the evidence for chronic concussion-related changes in retired athletes: behavioral, pathological, and clinical outcomes? Br J Sports Med 2013;47:327-330 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092248.
  4. Flanagan M. The downside of upright posture: the anatomical causes of Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. Minneapolis, MN. Two Harbors Press. 2010.
  5. Delaney S, Puni V, Rouah F. Mechanisms of injury for concussions in university football, ice hockey, and soccer: a pilot study. Clin J Sport Med, Mar2006;16(2):162-5.
  7. Nonfatal Traumatic Brain Injuries Related to Sports and Recreation Activities Among Persons Aged ≤ 19 Years — United States, 2001–2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. October 7, 2011.

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