Concussions in sports happen with regularity, yet their signs and symptoms often remain hidden. Concussion is a serious and misunderstood injury in which proper management lies in a huge gray area. As a chiropractic sports physician, I am well aware of this hidden epidemic and dilemma that players, parents, and coaches face with safe return to play (and work) protocols. I am also aware that the residual effects of prior concussions impact many more people than reported and many more women than men. (1)
We watch from the sidelines as the U.S. Women’s National team won the World Cup and recently became the best in the world. It has been shown that heading a soccer ball is riskier for women than men. (2) We watch lacrosse and football and hockey and think little of the effects to the athlete. We assume that recovery happens in between games and all is well again for the next match.
It is similarly true for recreational, amateur and professional sports, where the mode of play is that a lot is on the line and it is easy to dismiss warning signs that can escalate into a chronic problem. Much of the time, the initial helmet to helmet, head to head, or fall to the ground is dismissed as normal bumps and bruises and the game goes on. The player may sit out for the rest of the game, but rarely does the player or coaching staff pursue lingering symptoms that may arise weeks or months later. It has been shown that over half of concussions are never reported.(3)
One of the main problems with the proper diagnosis and treatment of concussion is that a loss of consciousness is a key symptom to make a diagnosis, yet the majority of concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness. (4) Individuals with a concussion may present with a wide range of signs and symptoms of impaired brain function that may even include abnormal behavior. Anxiety, depression, headache, and sleep disturbance are common. Because many symptoms do not appear for days, weeks or months after the injury, it is hard to correlate to the initial injury, especially in the hurry of today’s doctors office, where a complete history and exam are a thing of the past.
Methods of evaluating and assessing concussions are constantly changing, as are ways to manage concussions. Moreover, because every case is different, there is no simple timetable for recovery. Some people recover in days, others require weeks or months and some may endure long-term effects. (5)
The float tank can expedite this process and works well in tandem with all other therapies. Similar to the way that Olympic athletes like Ali Raisman and elite athletes such as Steph Curry, Tom Brady and JJ. Watt use float tanks for recovery, many athletes, amateur or professional and local or national, have found their way into The Float Zone to resolve lingering issues from a traumatic brain injury or concussion. (6)
The main benefit from floating has to do with removing stimuli, including light, sound, and gravity. Float therapy puts the user in a state of deep relaxation and the brain is able to connect with other parts the brain, to clean out waste and inflammation, to rid unwanted nerve connections and a host of other restorative processes that happen as a result of mirroring stages of sleep and deep relaxation. The float tank helps heal concussions because it helps the brain to reset, unlike during normal waking daily activities. Letting the brain reset and recharge sets the stage for healing.
As seen in a recent case study performed by The Float Zone in 2016, multiple symptoms of concussion were significantly reduced in just 4 weeks of regular floating. The categories that were tracked included pain, headache, anxiety, depression, sleep, daily fatigue, brain fog, auditory and visual sensitivity, appetite, focus and productivity, all improved significantly in 30 days, with regular floating. (7)
Another Float Zone study in 2107 focused on headache and sleep disturbance. Similar results were noted in both subject groups over the course of a month, where headache frequency decreased by 63% and headache intensity decreased by 57%. In the same study, sleep quality improved by 54% and emotional state, including anxiety and depression improved 56%. (8)
With regard to attributes of floating that appeal to the management of concussions, One of the most important effects of floating is the impact on the vagus nerve and our emotional centers. The Vagus nerve is an important nerve that connects the brain with the rest of the body, including the organs, skin and muscles. It powers up our involuntary nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system—and controls unconscious body functions, as well as everything from keeping our heart rate constant and food digestion to breathing and sweating. It also helps regulate blood pressure and blood glucose balance, promotes general kidney function, helps release bile and testosterone, stimulates the secretion of saliva, assists in controlling taste and releasing tears, and more - all things that can be affected with concussion. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is concerned with our emotional reactions, including fight or flight. With concussion, these parts of the brain mimic and over-emphasize times of intense stress. Many hormone systems like adrenaline and cortisol systems can go haywire because of this perceived stress overload, fueled by an overstimulated Vagus nerve and brain control centers like the amygdala. The wiring systems need to be reset, but it is more than just a matter of taking a pill. Recovery and reset of the nervous system revolves around a removal of the senses and a profound state of relaxation, as seen in the float experience. (9)
Float therapy involves a fiberglass tank with a hinged lid filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate salt. You not only float effortlessly atop this skin temperature solution, but you can control lights or darkness, and music or silence. Most with concussion that float, choose silence and either darkness, (or a red light that seems to calm the brain). With floating, you also absorb the magnesium, which is helpful for a myriad of brain and body functions especially while dealing with a concussion. (10)
Floating is now the premiere choice for both recovery and concussion management for many NFL teams who now have float tanks in their training facilities. They use them regularly and their players return to play sooner than those who do not use float tanks. The players also report a sense of serenity, a reduction in anxiety, more energy, less pain and better sleeps. Floating is a secret weapon that offers a competitive and a healing advantage and should be used immediately and frequently to manage concussions.
For additional information about case studies or to contact the author, Dr. David Berv, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.