After a concussion, physicians recommend that parents watch their child’s symptoms closely to see if they get worse. If kids experience ongoing headaches, that alone should be a concern.
During the first 48 hours after a concussion or anoxic brain injury, doctors recommend that children receive strict brain rest. They should rest in a relatively quiet environment and minimize exposure to anything that can worsen symptoms. Sadly, this means no TV, computers, phones, or video games. This alone can seem like the end of the world, but it’s essential to provide the rest your child’s brain needs.
Beyond rest, in the past, doctors thought there was nothing we could do except wait and hope our children’s concussions resolved. However, recent studies have shown that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can heal the onslaught of concussive problems, such as headaches, light sensitivity, memory problems, nausea, and sleep problems in both children and adults. in adults
Pediatric concussions are a growing public health concern, affecting millions of children each year. These injuries, often sustained through sports or falls, can significantly impact a child's physical and cognitive development. Most children recover fully within a few weeks. However, some experience persistent symptoms of post-concussion syndrome (PPCS) that can last for months or even years.
Fortunately, HBOT is a new and innovative treatment option that can help children who experience pediatric concussions return to their lives. HBOT is a very safe therapy, and we have seen deeply heartening results in our clinic. Some of our pediatric patients have decreased their recovery time, and others have virtually eliminated the long-term consequences they had been experiencing.
For example, we had an 11-year-old patient who had fallen head-first on concrete. The resulting headache and light sensitivity he experienced made it impossible for him to go to school. His mother brought him in for HBOT, and after a number of sessions, he returned to school fully functioning. Teens frequently visit our clinic to treat ongoing concussion headaches, cognitive issues, and vision problems from school sports
Let’s explore the use of HBOT for concussions in children and teens, the benefits of HBOT, and what to expect during treatment.
Pediatric Concussions and Their Consequences
Concussions are a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a jolt or blow to the head. Concussions lead to temporary impairment of brain function. In children, they can occur during contact sports, falls, bicycle accidents, birth trauma, playground injuries, and other activities. At Bay Area Hyperbarics, we are seeing a large number of pediatric patients with concussions resulting from ‘Headers’ in soccer.
Symptoms, Effects, and Potential Long-Term Consequences
Children may exhibit a range of post-concussion symptoms, including:
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Irritability and changes in mood
Most children and teens recover fully within 1-4 weeks with proper rest and care. However, some children experience ongoing problems that significantly affect their daily lives, making it harder to learn school work, retain emotional stability, or follow regular daily routines. Often, these ongoing symptoms get worse with time. These brain problems are known as persistent post-concussive syndrome (PPCS) and can include:
- Persistent headaches
- Memory and concentration problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression and anxiety
Additionally, studies have shown that pediatric concussions can also lead to long-term consequences. These include significant physical, emotional, and cognitive stress. Therefore, seeking proper treatment to prevent or mitigate these potential consequences is crucial.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): A New Approach to Concussion Recovery
HBOT is a medical procedure involving the child or teen breathing 100% pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. More pressure helps oxygen dissolve in the blood, which heals injured tissues, including those nerves and brain tissues.
In the context of pediatric concussions, HBOT offers several benefits:
Reduced Inflammation and Swelling
Research shows that concussions can cause inflammation in the brain, leading to swelling and increased pressure within the skull. HBOT reduces this inflammation and promotes healing by increasing and concentrating oxygen in the damaged tissues.
Improved Blood Flow and Oxygen Delivery
HBOT uses 100% oxygen, which concentrates 400 times more oxygen into the brain. This oxygenation starts the rapid growth of new blood vessels, improving overall blood flow. HBOT rapidly increases oxygen delivery to the brain at much greater amounts than we get with breathing normal air, which contains about 21% oxygen. This increased oxygen helps repair damaged tissues and promotes healing.
HBOT can also create many more synapses much more rapidly than any other therapy known today. Synapses are the connections between brain cells responsible for cognitive function. This process improves cognition and improves memory loss caused by concussions.
HBOT enhances the brain's ability to change and adapt, known as neuroplasticity. This neuroplasticity helps children recover from concussions much more quickly, efficiently and thoroughly than the brain and body could do on its own.
Faster Recovery Times
Overall, the numerous benefits of HBOT can significantly contribute to faster recovery times. We now know that concussions are cumulative. This means that each head injury causes damage that doesn’t fully heal. You might not see the initial damage after the first few incidents. However, the next small injury adds to the previous damage and leads to cognitive and behavioral challenges. We see far too often in professional athletes incidences of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which causes personality changes and violent behavior, including too often death by suicide.
HBOT can help your child’s brain heal so that their future brain function remains intact, reducing the risk of long-term consequences.
Re-Activating Idling Brain Cells
A number of studies have shown through a combination of SPECT scans and MRIs of the brain that HBOT helps reactivate “idling” cells. These cells are still alive but don’t function (thus the term“idling” brain cells. Pictures of these brain scans show that HBOT heals and activates idling brain cells so they get back to work as normal neurons.
Studies show that at different intervals, after 10 HBOT sessions, 20 HBOT sessions, and up to 60 HBOT sessions there was significant improvement with more blood flow and brain activity in areas of the brain that had been damaged. HBOT in these studies was shown to return the brain to a more efficient and effective state.
Integrating HBOT Into Pediatric Concussion Treatment Plans
HBOT is not intended to replace existing concussion treatment strategies but rather to complement them. It can be used with rest, physical therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation to provide a comprehensive approach to recovery. This approach is helpful for addressing the needs of children with PPCS and maximizing their recovery rate.
We have seen numerous studies where an underage patient has become almost completely non-social, where their grades suffer, and they can do little but sit in a dark room for hours, suffering as a result of concussions. After HBOT, these patients have all returned to their typically social selves, their grades have improved, and they interact more normally than before treatment.
How HBOT Complements Existing Treatments
- Collaborative Approach: HBOT works synergistically with existing therapies, such as physical and occupational therapy, creating a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to each child's needs.
- Targeted Healing: HBOT specifically targets the injured brain tissue, addressing the root cause of concussion-related symptoms and promoting efficient recovery. It regenerates the blood-brain barrier.
- Minimized Medication Dependency: The non-invasive nature of HBOT may reduce reliance on medications. Consequently, it minimizes potential side effects and promotes natural healing.
Empowering Recovery Through HBOT
Pediatric concussions can have a devastating impact on young lives. Fortunately, HBOT offers a promising new treatment option to improve children's recovery processes and long-term outcomes significantly. If your child has had a traumatic brain injury (concussion) and is experiencing persistent symptoms, consult your doctor about HBOT or call a hyperbaric medicine clinic as a potential treatment.
At Bay Area Hyperbarics, we are committed to providing the highest quality HBOT care for our community and our children with PPCS. Over the last 25 years, we have worked with many children and teens with brain problems. Our patients ranged from a 2-month-old with severe birth trauma to children of all ages with autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, brain radiation damage, PPD, and concussion syndromes.
We have also seen high-performing athletic teens and many children of all ages. Early treatment often means fewer treatments and more rapid recovery for your child. Our experienced team will work closely with you and your child's healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan. Contact us today to learn more about how HBOT can help your child recover from a concussion and achieve optimal long-term health.