The film Concussion takes a look at the “discovery” of a brain disease caused by multiple concussions and sub-concussive hits while the focus of the film is on the NFL’s early denial of the existence of the disease and their role in the process. It’s always more powerful when a subject is dramatized, using a world-renowned actor, shown on the big screen with all the sights and sounds that make Hollywood films so entertaining. It’s even more powerful when the underlying science of the film proves accurate. I’ve seen many “based on a true story” movies before which take liberties that would make the historical figure cringe, and although I’m sure there has been a bit of character and story dramatization in Concussion, much of the science of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) remained true.

This subject hits very close to home for us at Carolina HealthSpan Institute. Over two years ago, after much research and trial, we decided to add Neurofeedback as a core service to our offerings. Many symptoms stemming from a single or multiple concussions can be addressed with certain types of Neurofeedback, by directly rebalancing the brain. We see long-term cessation of quality-of-life symptoms in a relatively short period of time with this technique. Six months ago we decided along with 10 other clinics around the country to turn our attention to former NFL players. Our study has taken off and many former players have made it at least halfway through the process with a massive reduction in symptoms and brain imaging to prove the underlying change. See our study release for more information on this.

Dr. Omalu, played by Will Smith, may have been the first to discover CTE in a NFL player (CTE was coined in 1949) and put the wheels in motion for it’s public display, but we have research dating back to the 1920s on this same issue. The disease process used to be called dementia pugilistica or “Punch Drunk” and was seen mostly in retired boxers until recent years. CTE may now be most commonly studied in former NFL athletes, but multiple cases have been found in other contact sports, as well as in Military Veterans who have sustained brain injury from blasts. There is a fantastic journal article published by Montenigro, et. al. in 2014 reviewing the research and cases of CTE over the years. If you are interested in the science behind this subject, this is the best place to start.

The fallout from this film will be interesting to watch. How the NFL Owners, Players Association, colleges, high schools and parents react will all determine the direction and future of the sport. Concussion protocols are becoming stricter, millions of dollars are going into developing protective gear and eventually pre-mortem diagnosis will be possible and drugs will be developed to temporarily mask the symptoms of the disease while the underlying process continues to grow and the brain continues to degenerate. This is, after all, how we approach most similar issues.

In Charlotte, we are taking a new approach to the treatment process. We are in the process of proving and publicizing that symptoms stemming from probable-CTE can be managed without drugs. If a multi-modal treatment approach is taken using Neurofeedback as a core tool, then former NFL players, Veterans, or accident victims can start sleeping again, regain their executive function, emotional control and even short-term memory. We are showing that this type of program can make functional changes in a person’s “Brain Map” and therefore change the outcome of the disease process. We’re not claiming to have a solution for CTE, but isn’t it nice to know there is something you can do today to live a better life while the universities and hospital systems do their diligent work to better understand the underlying disease process in living individuals?

We encourage everyone to go see this film. And then we encourage you to come in and speak with one of our experts if you have any questions or concerns about yourself or a loved one who has experienced multiple concussions or sub-concussive blows over the years. We are not interested in choosing sides in the NFL battle, pointing fingers or even changing the game, rather just offering the most comprehensive brain function evaluation and treatment method we know of for individuals with symptoms deriving from single or multiple concussions. Call us today if you would like to know more – 704.333.4817.