Concussion playbook: Fuel up on nutrition for healing and recovery


By pH health care professionals

Will Smith recently starred in Concussion, a biographical movie about a doctor who studied and raised awareness about football-related head trauma. While performing an autopsy on a retired pro football player, Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith, discovered neurological deterioration similar to Alzheimer’s – red flag. He called the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy and published a paper in a medical journal about it. But as he saw more football players receiving the diagnosis, he had to speak up.

Whether you are a concerned parent or family member of a football player, someone who has had a concussion before, or just someone who wants to be more informed, take a few minutes to understand concussions and how symptoms can be addressed.

What do you need to know about concussions?

There are about 10 million head injuries per year in the United States, and about 20 percent are serious enough to cause brain damage, according to Harrison’s Internal Medicine, 2012. One type of head injury is a concussion – a form of minor traumatic brain injury. Concussion can be defined as any experience with forgetfulness or feeling stunned after trauma to the head. It sometimes causes a person to lose consciousness. Other times, the person is simply dazed and confused. 

What causes a concussion?                        

During the impact, your brain – which is surrounded by cushioning fluid and membranes – hits the inside of your skull, causing bruising of the brain.

What’s the damage like after a concussion?

Most single, uncomplicated concussions do not produce any residual symptoms, but nevertheless, there may be chemical and structural changes in the brain. Some people develop memory and concentration problems, stemming from changes in the brain that are not easy to pinpoint. Aside from memory loss and concentration problems, headache, irritability and depression are common.

PET imaging scans may be used to detect who will have more long-term, ongoing symptoms. Biomarkers in the blood are currently being studied to predict which concussion victims will develop post-concussion symptoms persistently.

What is recovery like?

After a concussion, the recommendation is to take a break from all activities.  This means no sports, no school and no work. Patients are then advised to slowly return to activities with a few hours of reading for example, and walking instead of running for sports.  If tolerated, daily hourly increments of increased activity can be tried until full activity is reached, if tolerated.

What are some ways to address the symptoms of concussion?

  • Rest up. As previously mentioned, rest is incredibly important and should be a priority.
  • Give your brain nutritional support.
    • Magnesium is known to help improve headaches and sleep, and is good for overall brain health.
    • SAMe may help with depression.
    • Vitamin B complex often helps with brain “fog.”
    • study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery by Dr. Barry Sears and Dr. Julian Bailes showed EPA/DHA fish oil to be a promising treatment for concussion recovery. “Animals receiving the daily fish oil supplement for 30 days post-concussion had a greater than 98 percent reduction in brain damage compared with the animals that did not receive the supplement,” Dr. Sears said.
    • Eating healthy with emphasis on brain-healthy foods like fish, walnuts, blueberries and broccoli can help, too.
  • Get a nutrition blood testMake sure your body is getting the amount of nutrients needed for healing

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.