Concussion Prevention & Mindful Exercise
The latest research and evolving medical technology has enabled health professionals and the masses alike to truly understand that concussions are more prevalent than we thought, and repeated (even if mild) concussions can be extremely dangerous . While it’s commonly known that sudden trauma, or repetitive, mild trauma to the head may result in a concussion, it is less commonly understood that blows to the body from body-to-body contact and falls can result in head injury by jarring the brain as well. By definition, a concussion is a type of brain injury resulting in a short-term loss of brain function. This altered state of function and resulting symptoms can vary from person to person, but can happen when the brain is essentially shaken against the skull. Contact sports obviously put athletes at much greater risk than others, and the fact that mild concussions can happen without direct hits to the head are even more alarming. Studies show that the altered state of brain function is largely due to lesions that are created in brain tissue and altered brain metabolism.
What does this all mean?
The brain is an expert at conserving energy while both creating and recreating neural pathways to allow people to execute day-to-day tasks as well as complete complex tasks cognitively and athletically. While someone is in a concussed state, these brain-based operations become very difficult and more energy- expensive, oftentimes leading down the path of multiple symptoms that are not initially attributed to a simple body blow or light head bump. Some symptoms may not be recognized or reported for days or weeks following an accident (i.e., headaches, blurred vision, “brain fog”, balance issues, etc.). Although not all accidents are preventable, your brain is more self-healing than you may think.
Can brain injuries be prevented?
One of the best ways to make your brain more resilient and less susceptible to sustaining a concussion is to increase your brain fitness. We all want to be healthy and vibrant through physical fitness. Research is now pointing towards Cognitive Training as the new frontier in fitness and important for a healthy lifestyle. Brain training is growing in popularity and resembles anything from mindful exercises such as balance training, fine motor skill games, to brain games that challenge visual coordination like reaction time and speed of recognition. When it comes to sports, training one’s brain allows for better spatial awareness which in turn makes an athlete less susceptible to taking a hard fall or a careless bump. For athletes, this type of performance training might involve visual drills within athletic tasks; saccadic eye movement during exercise to facilitate flexion and extension within each movement. To put it simply, using your eyes in the direction you are moving.
How and where can I learn more?
When it comes to brain fitness, there are multiple avenues one can take advantage of and a lot of information out there. For example, the buzzwords Neuroplasticity, Cognitive Fitness, Vision Training, and Vestibular Training are popular online hits. One of the simplest ways to begin brain training is mindful exercise. Mindful exercise is any exercise routine that engages both mind and body to work together. Examples are balance exercises, hand-eye coordination drills, and repetitive movement patterns that challenge one’s ability to move in multiple planes of space using visual or inner ear cues. At A3 Bakersfield, we have all of our athletes begin with vision drills as part of their warm up. One example Is holding a pencil-sized rod with a marble-sized ball at the top and tracking that ball with various eye movements (e.g. diagonally) while keeping the head still and balancing on one foot. We also have a vision board which athletes use to complete timed drills. There are so many benefits to training the body, the brain and vestibular systems, and overall health, but optimal brain health and concussion prevention is perhaps one of the most important! A3 Bakersfield is one of Kern County’s most progressive fitness and health facilities dedicated to cognitive fitness. Come find out more about mindful exercise and how we can help keep you in shape from head to toe, brain and body!