Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sports-medicine researcher awarded Genuis Grant, Raises Awareness of Sports-related Brain Injuries


Kevin Guskiewicz, MacArthur Fellow. Photo courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Every year, 3.8 million American athletes suffer from mild traumatic brain injury. Thanks to Kevin Guskiewicz, a sports-medicine researcher, those athletes have more hope in understanding how to treat and prevent further injury. Guskiewicz was recently awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Grant, routinely referred to as the “Genius Grant”, for his work highlighting the prevalence of sports-related concussions.

Traditionally, doctors relied on athletes to report symptoms of concussions. Although this is critical, Guskiewicz realized the inadequacy in relying solely on athlete self-reports. These led him to research and demonstrate that an athlete’s balance serves as an objective measure of concussions. He then developed the Balance Error Scoring System, a cost-effective method of accurately diagnosing athletes for head injuries. This system is now used by colleges and high schools across the country. Guskiewicz was also one of the first to identify the long-term impact of MTBI including depression and cognitive disorders.

Now Guskiewicz and colleagues are embedding accelerometers in the helmets of young athletes to examine the relationship between number and magnitude of head impacts with symptoms of concussion. He is currently working directly with athletes and coaches to determine dangerous hits and tackling techniques that can sustain concussions.

If you’re an athlete who has suffered from a concussion or brain injury, consult with a doctor to identify how you can treat and prevent sports-related head injuries.


“Kevin Guskiewicz-MacArthur Foundation”, last modified September 2011

Wash, Megan. “UNC’s Guskiewicz a leader in concussion research,” The Daily Tar Heel, December 7, 2010.

Loss of Smell after Brain Injury

If you have a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), you may feel like you are less able to smell than before. Scientific research suggests that this is probably not just your imagination.

One study evaluated MTBI patients on their ability to smell after their injury. Researchers discovered that 22% of participants had a reduced sense of smell. 4% of participants had lost their sense of a smell completely. These findings led researchers to conclude that MTBI damages people’s ability to smell.

Previous studies have indicated that changes in smell can happen when there is damage to the olfactory bulb and/or the fronto-temporal areas of the brain that control smell. Consult a doctor to find out whether your weakened sense of smell is related to a head injury.

De Kruijk JR, Leffers P, Menheere PPCA, Meerhoff S, et al. Olfactory function after mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury 2003;17(1):73-78.

Dr. Dahlager - Noblesville Chiropractor

Aggression in Brain Injury Patients Could Interfere with Treatment

If you or someone you know suffers from a brain injury, you may have witnessed the cognitive and emotional changes that take place after the injury. For many people with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), one common emotional change is aggressive behavior.

In one study, patients with TBI were three times as likely to exhibit aggressive behavior compared to patients with head injuries who did not have TBI. Aggressive patients were also likely to be depressed and have poorer social functioning. These patients were also more likely to have a history of drug and alcohol abuse in addition to having a higher number of legal interventions due to aggression.

Unfortunately, this aggressive behavior could interfere with patients’ treatment and vocational rehabilitation. This study highlights how psychological conditions after brain injury can often complicate the diagnosis and treatment process. Patients with aggressive behavior should therefore be carefully evaluated for a head injury. Talk to a doctor in your area to learn more about coping with aggression while receiving brain injury treatment.

Tateno A, Jorge RE, Robinson RG. Clinical correlates of aggressive behavior after traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2003;15:155-160.

Why do some people recover more quickly from brain injuries?

Every year, 1.5 million new cases of brain injury occur in the US. The majority of those cases are people with mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Fortunately, people with MTBI can generally expect a good recovery if they receive proper treatment. Some people, however, can recover much more quickly than others, within a matter of several weeks to 3 months. Others can take several months to recover and experience longer-lasting effects. What makes for this drastic difference in rate of recovery? One likely answer to that question is whether or not you have psychological conditions.

Brain injuries are often associated with traumatic events or auto collisions. These traumatic events can spark a slew of psychiatric issues ranging from PTSD to panic attacks and depression. One study of MTBI patients found that participants were significantly more likely to have psychiatric problems after receiving an injury than before. Furthermore, the majority of patients had both psychiatric problems and MTBI at the same time. People with psychological conditions also recovered more slowly.

This study confirms that it is crucial to consider both the psychological and physical effects of brain injuries. Talk to a professional in your area to find a multifaceted treatment that addresses all of your symptoms, both physical and psychiatric.


1. Mooney G, Speed J. The association between mild traumatic brain injury and psychiatric conditions. Brain Injury 2001;15(10):865-877.

2. DeVore JR. Psychological morbidity following motor vehicle accidents. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation State of the Art Reviews 1998;12:111-132.

3. Holbrook TL, Anderson JP, Siber WJ, et al. Outcome after major trauma: discharge and six month follow-up results from the trauma recovery project. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care 1998;45:315-324.

Is it Chronic Pain or a Brain Injury? Diagnosing Your Symptoms

People with post-traumatic concussion syndrome (PCS) may experience physical pain, cognitive dysfunctions, and emotional changes. However, the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), a form of PCS, are strikingly similar to symptoms of chronic pain (CP). These similarities can make it difficult for patients and doctors alike to determine the exact cause of their symptoms. But determining the cause of these symptoms can make all the difference in effectively treating patients.

Scientists have moved closer in distinguishing chronic pain from MTBI with a study that surveyed patients on broad range of symptoms. Interestingly, both CP and MTBI groups did not differ significantly overall. The vast majority of participants from both groups met the criteria for post-traumatic concussion syndrome. Patients with chronic pain reported they had symptoms typically associated with MTBI: 67% had memory problems and 78% had difficulty concentrating.

While the two groups often overlapped, people with MTBI had more cognitive symptoms compared to CP patients who had more emotional symptoms. Furthermore, the study highlighted trends in CP patients that could help identify the presence of CP. People with chronic pain were more likely to report nausea, fatigue, irritability, depression, sleep disturbances, and restlessness.

Although scientists have more work to do in order to determine the differences between CP and MTBI, this study is a step towards creating more effective treatments based on accurate diagnosis. Visit a professional in your area to find the right treatment for your brain injury or chronic pain.

Smith-Seemiller L, Fow NR, Kant R, Franzen MD. Presence of post-concussion syndrome symptoms in patients with chronic pain vs mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury 2003;17(3):199-206.

More Than a Pain in the Neck: The Long-term Effects of Whiplash

Most people think of whiplash as a painful neck injury. Few people realize though that whiplash can generate a number of additional health problems.

In the first study of its kind, researchers set out to explore the long-term effects of whiplash 6-7 years after the initial accident. Researchers compared individuals with and without whiplash after a rear-end collision with people that had not been in a rear-end collision. They discovered that people with whiplash were significantly more likely than the two other groups to suffer from several other health conditions. Those with whiplash reported a greater amount of headaches, low back pain, thoracic pain, ill health, sleep disturbances, stomach aches, fatigue, and depression.

Researchers concluded that whiplash is more complex than a simple neck injury. They pointed out that there is no single set of symptoms for people with chronic whiplash. Consult with a doctor in your area to determine your whiplash-related conditions and how you can receive treatment.

Berglund A, Alfredsson L, Jensen I, Cassidy JD, Nygren A. The association between exposure to a rear-end collision and future health complaints. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2001;54:851-856.


Quality of Life is Poorer for Patients with Neck Injuries and Whiplash

Emotional trauma from auto injuries can linger for years after the initial accident. For people with neck injuries or whiplash, this trauma can begin to erode their quality of life.

A 2003 Dutch study evaluated the quality of life in people with neck sprains and whiplash compared to the general Dutch population. Researchers discovered that people with neck injuries were more likely to present feelings of inadequacy and depression. They also had an overall lower quality of life and poorer psychological functioning. These factors were worse for participants that had previous psychological issues before the injury.

This study highly suggests that physical pain is linked to a host of psychological concerns. Visiting a doctor in your area can help you address the psychological and physical distress of your auto injury.

Versteegen GJ, Dijkstra PU, Jaspers JPC, et al. Sprain of the neck: quality of life and psychological functioning. A 4-year retrospective study. Quality of Life Research 2003;12:335-343.


Researchers Find “Silent Disorders” in TMJ Patients

Jaw and neck pain may be more related than you think. For people suffering from whiplash after an auto collision, you may know all to well that you have pain and dysfunction in the area connecting your upper and lower jaw (known as temporomandibular joint or TMJ). What you may not know is that you could also have dysfunctions in your cervical spine or the area where the spine connects with the skull.

In 2003, a study confirmed that even when TMJ patients didn’t complain of neck problems they were more likely to have cervical spine disorders than patients who didn’t have TMJ. Patients with TMJ had a more restricted range of motion in their neck and more tenderness in the neck and shoulders than their non-TMJ counterparts. What’s more, researchers pointed that cervical spine dysfunctions can prolong TMJ disorders.

The prevalence and severity of these “silent” disorders make it crucial that TMJ patients be examined by a doctor. If you suffer from TMJ pain after an auto crash, contact one of the doctors in your area for a consultation.

Stiesch-Scholz M, Fink M, Tschernitschek H. Comorbidity of internal derangement of the temporomandibular joint and silent dysfunction of the cervical spine. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation 2003;30:386-391.



Women and Men Experience Auto Accidents Differently

For years, doctors and scientists alike have noted that women report whiplash symptoms more frequently than men. Some scientists hypothesized that this may be due to the smaller circumference and lower muscle mass of female necks.

A study published in 2003 evaluated the degree of movement in male and female necks during low-speed collisions. They found that women’s necks do indeed move significantly more than men’s necks. This higher degree of motion translates into more frequent whiplash symptoms in women.

These findings confirm that men and women experience auto accidents differently. Fortunately though, for both men and women, chiropractic care can relieve the painful symptoms of whiplash.

1. van den Kroonenberg A, Philippens M, Cappon H, et al. Human head-neck response during lowspeed rear end impacts. 42nd Stapp Car Crash Conference Proceedings (P-337), 1998. SAE 983158.                                                                                                            

2. Stemper BD, Yoganandan N, Pintar FA. Gender dependent cervical spine segmental kinematics during whiplash. Journal of Biomechanics 2003;36:1281-1289.


Patient Education Improves Chronic Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when the neck is forced past its normal range of motion. A common example of this is being rear-ended in an automobile accident. Whiplash can also occur after a severe bump to the head in which the neck was jarred or thrown forward or backward.

Whiplash should always be evaluated and treated to prevent further problems such as accelerated degeneration due to inflammation and alignment issues. As well, chronic whiplash can develop in some individuals. If this happens, you may be looking forward to years of intense pain sensitivity, poor coping mechanisms with illness, negative attitude and of course, movement dysfunctions. All of this could lead to disability.

In a recent case study, people suffering from chronic whiplash were educated on the mechanisms behind pain response to determine whether this type of knowledge could change symptoms, daily functioning, pain beliefs and behavior. Six patients with chronic whiplash associated disorders underwent evaluation; one group out of three underwent education on neurophysiology.

There was a significant difference in kinesiophobia (fear of movement or re-injury), passive coping strategy of resting, self-rated disability and photophobia (excessive sensitivity to light) following education intervention. There was also an increase in pain pressure thresholds and improvement in pain-free movement capabilities.

The sooner you see a chiropractor following a whiplash injury, the better your chances are for a full recovery. Chiropractors can also treat chronic whiplash.

Oosterwijck J, Nijs J, Meeus M, Truijen S, Craps J, Van den Keybus N, Paul L. Pain neurophysiology education improves cognitions, pain thresholds, and movement performance in people with chronic whiplash: A pilot study. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. 2011; 48 (1): 43-58.