Football, Somatics, and Post Concussion Syndrome

I will be writing a series of blog posts about sports and Somatics, but for today I'd like to focus on concussions, and the muscles that contract secondarily due to the kind of impact that would cause a concussion.

Superbowl 2012 was a nail-biter...

...and I loved every minute of it. I love watching movement... and football players really know how to move. I  have profound respect for the extensive training that goes into being able to sprint, jump, dodge, fly, fall, and manage to stand back up and do it all over again on a dime.

Football season is over, yet many of these players will now start the job of rehabilitation to get them back to top form for next season.

Football is a terrific spectator sport, but brutally hard on the athletes. It is a sport whose players could benefit from Hanna Somatic Education. Why? Because football involves serious repetitive injuries, with concussions causing a great deal of concern.

Sensory Motor Amnesia and professional sports go hand in hand.

The most common injuries in American football are to the knee, ankle, leg, pelvis, and shoulder, and head: snapped ACLs and MCLs, dislocated shoulders, ankle sprains, hamstring strains, and concussions. All of these injuries can lead to some form of compensation while the injury heals; compensation triggers the brain to put certain muscles on "cruise control" (Sensory Motor Amnesia). A bad case of Sensory Motor Amnesia could ruin a player's career - and to a lesser extent make full recovery very costly and time-consuming.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can change the way your brain works. Concussions warrant immediate and expert medical attention. However, those suffering concussions also have secondary muscular pain that is often associated with what doctors call "post concussion syndrome." It is believed that PCS can develop due to an actual neck injury associated with the accident that caused the concussion.

Here's the rub: It's never just one muscle causing the problem.

The "neck injury" that is most written about in regards to PCS is one of myofascial neck pain. The tight neck muscles pull the vertebrae out of alignment. Seeking chiropractic care can be helpful, but reeducating the muscles that coordinate together with the neck (and that contracted in response to the injury) will yield rapid, long lasting results. It will also be vastly less expensive than treatments that seek to "fix" the muscles symptomatically.

The muscular response to a concussion has been identified as almost identical to "whiplash:"

  • the head snaps forward and back suddenly
  • one side of the body retracts (if there is a side impact)
  • the muscles of the neck and shoulders contract strongly
  • the muscles of the front of the body contract
  • the muscles of the back, which go from the sacrum up to the base of the skull, contract strongly

How do you really release and relax muscles that have been violently contracted during the accident or "hit" that results in a concussion?

Pandiculation gently releases the muscles of the neck, shoulders and back and restores proper muscle function.

Pandiculation - tightening, lengthening and relaxing of muscles - is the safest and gentlest way to restore proper brain to muscle function. "Hands-on" pandiculations, which are done one-on-one during clinical Somatics sessions, allow the practitioner to guide the client through many different combinations of movement (within their comfort range) that involve the tight muscles. You will reeducate the muscles to stop contracting so that the pain ceases.

In this post I present a few gentle seated pandiculations for neck pain relief. The Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders DVD has even more easy, gentle Somatic Exercises to relieve neck and shoulder pain at home.

Concussions can happen in any sport: skiing, horseback riding, ice hockey, soccer, boxing, lacrosse, volleyball, cyclocross, cycling, and basketball. A concussion is a medical problem that requires medical attention. The secondary muscular pain that accompanies a concussion is most efficiently reversed with Somatic Education.