Why the NFL Needs Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

Today was Super Bowl 50. We watched the rookie, Cam Newton, lead his nearly undefeated Panthers into battle against the seasoned Peyton Manning and the defensive powerhouse of the Denver Broncos. The Panthers were favored to win, but the Broncos took the championship. Both teams accomplished incredible feats, but at great risk to their long term health.

Controversy has begun to surround football in the last several years. As we learn more about the correlation between head trauma and long term illnesses, especially related to the brain, the NFL is taking notice. In 2015, former NFL player, Adrian Robinson committed suicide after sustaining multiple head injuries during his career as a football player. Many NFL players are suing the NFL for not disclosing just how dangerous multiple concussions can be. One source says, 

…thousands of former players have sued the NFL over concussions, claiming the league withheld information about damaging effects of repeated head blows. The NFL, without acknowledging wrongdoing, has agreed to pay into a fund that could top $1 billion to settle injury claims that include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and CTE-related suicides.

A concussion is a minor brain injury, but leading cause of death in the United States. It’s caused by any force that makes the head shake back and forth quickly. The CDC says, “effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), or emotional functioning (e.g., personality changes, depression).” Adrian Robinson, former NFL defensive player, committed suicide just one month after signing a contract with the Canadian Football League. His family reported he was having moments of a “darker” personality. Five months after his death the Concussion Legacy Foundation at Boston University confirmed Robinson a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is very similar to Ahlzeimer’s disease and dementia.

In 2002  Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist began shedding light on traumatic brain injuries sustained in American football after his autopsy of NFL player Mike Webster, who suffered for years with “cognitive and intellectual impairment, destitution, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts”. Since then, Dr. Omalu has been fighting to bring awareness to this issue despite strong opposition from the NFL. His work has become so publicized and controversial it led to the creation of the film, Concussion. What Dr. Omalu discovered has changed the face of sports related concussions forever, it is now proven that players who sustain repetitive trauma to the head are at high risk of developing major cognitive impairment down the road. That’s a high price to pay for even a sucessful football career.

How to treat concussion, or TBI?

Science proves concussion is caused by a sudden jolt to the head. Because this injury involves the head and neck it’s important to also talk about the two vertebrae directly under the skull, the atlas and the axis (C1 and C2).

The spinal cord flows down from the brain and through the C1 and C2. Because these vertebrae have increased range of motion compared to other vertebrae they are more susceptible to becoming misaligned. When C1 and C2 are not aligned properly, they compromise the spinal cord and the brain by putting pressure on the nerves within the spinal column.

Dr. Scott Rosa treated former NFL player, Terry McMahon, who sustained a traumatic brain injury due to multiple concussions.

A few days after the MRI, Damadian and Terry accompanied McMahon and Navon to the upstate Rock Hill office of Dr. Scott Rosa, a cranio-cervical specialist who has treated many athletes, as well as others suffering with multiple schlerosis, Parkinson’s, autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Rosa performed a noninvasive procedure — the Image Guided Atlas Treatment — that aligned the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae near the base of McMahon’s skull.The relief was almost instantaneous.”When they first did it to me, it was like the toilet flushed,” McMahon said. “I thought to myself, ‘No wonder I can hear my heart beating. It was bang, bang, bang.’ I was having trouble speaking. I couldn’t see clearly. But as soon as [Rosa] moved those bones, it was amazing.” (emphasis added)

ESPN’s 30 for 30 recently featured the dynasty that is the Chicago Bears and specifically, Terry McMahon’s illnesses related to repeated head trauma. “The documentary… discusses the health troubles McMahon experienced as a result of playing football and taking so many hits.”

Upper Cervical Care for sports related concussions.

It’s safe to say a person who undergoes a concussion, or traumatic brain injury, can look forward to a lesser than quality of life than before the injury. NFL players, along with athletes of all ages, should be educated on the risks associated with their sports trauma. For many athletes it’s the repeated minor trauma that results in major health issues.

Football is the most popular sport in the United States and who knows if there will ever be regulations on allowing children and teens to play football, and very likely sustain repeated minor head trauma. We must work toward educating coaches, players, parents, and school officials on the long term effects this generation of athletes can look forward to, but not stop there. We must also educate them on how to rehabilitate the spine on a regular basis in order to avoid short and long term health deficiencies. Chiropractic is the safest way to keep the nervous system in optimal working condition, especially for athletes.

Upper Cervical Care is along the same lines as the procedure Dr. Rosa performed on McMahon. Upper Cervical Care, also known as Orthospinology, aims to move the atlas and axis back into its appropriate position so the spinal cord and brain can function as it is intended to function. Minimal shifting of the top two vertebrae can result in a number of health conditions, from migraines to high blood pressure.