Football isn’t just a contact sport it’s a dangerous game of massive bodies colliding into one another. And while it may seem obvious that this sport can do extraordinary damage to brains and bodies, it’s taken far too long for the NFL, the medical community, and football fans to fully reckon with this.
Doctors have learned a tremendous amount about concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repeated hits to the head, since the first former NFL player was diagnosed with CTE in the early 2000s. Concern around the issue has only grown now that more than 100 former NFL players have received a postmortem diagnosis of CTE, and new research is finding that youth football may be a risk factor for CTE down the line.
Football is still an immensely popular sport in the United States, and as preseason starts up, millions will watch and enjoy. But all the evidence we now have about the very serious risk of brain injuries casts a dim light on the future of the sport.
The NFL didn’t acknowledge the concussion problem until 2009; for years, the NFL had downplayed and denied the links between concussions and cognitive decline. And these days, the league is donating millions to concussion-related research.
But there has been significant friction with the scientific community over the issue. In July 2018, the NFL and the National Institutes of Health ended a $30 million partnership with half the money left unspent. According to ESPN, the NFL backed out of a major study that had been awarded to a researcher who had been critical of the league, which precipitated the ending of the partnership.
The league has also made some steps to make the game a bit safer. Players are immediately removed from the field when there’s a potential concussion. If diagnosed, they can only return to play after completing a five-step protocol, which includes an unspecified period of rest, followed up by supervised exercise, and then examinations not just with the team doctor but also with an independent neurological consultant. Critics, however, have charged that these protocols have been enforced unevenly across teams and players.
In Addition, the NFL has banned helmet-to-helmet hits, made kickoff plays slightly safer and limited the amount of contact allowed in practices. Its also looking into artificial playing surfaces to soften the blow of impacts.
But even with better helmets, football might not ever be a perfectly safe sport for brain health. As long as football is a sport where human-to-human collisions are fundamental to play, it’s going to be a dangerous game.
In his breakthrough book, When Brains Collide, Dr. Michael Lewis explains how therapeutic doses of omega-3 rich fish oil and hemp-derived CBD oil can effectively assist in the prevention, management, and healing of concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) whether suffered on the playground, on the highway, on the sports field, or on the battlefield.
His breakthrough nutrition-based protocol for brain health has helped thousands of patients who suffered head trauma, in some cases years after the injury occurred.
What is a concussion?
A concussion unfolds in two phases, says Dr. Lewis. The first phase is the primary injury, where the brain tissues are violently thrown against the inside of the skull, whether the head hit the windshield or helmet-to-helmet contact on the football field, a soccer ball strike, or a fall.
Dr. Lewis says that the primary injury changes the way the brain functions and brings about a secondary injury which can be far more devastating: a biochemical cascade triggered by the initial impact that can go on for months and create dangerous conditions in the brain such as oxygen deprivation and inflammation or excess fluid in the cranium.
Who gets concussions?
Out of the 3 to 4.5 million concussions every year, nearly 2,000,000 are children aged nineteen or younger who are treated in emergency rooms for sports and recreational-related head trauma. The list for sports-related brain trauma includes soccer, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, playgrounds, bicycles, skateboards, horseback riding, and falls. Though the number of reported sports-related concussions is sobering, it’s only a fraction of the concussions in children that go unreported. Says Dr. Lewis.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are headaches, brain fog, fatigue, lack of energy, personality and mood changes, anxiety, and irritability. Sometimes symptoms may not be readily apparent for days or even a couple weeks, says Dr. Lewis.
Using Fish Oil to address concussion and brain injury:
The brain is made of fat and about 30 percent of that fat is what are called omega-3 fatty acids, says Dr. Lewis. We’ve found if we saturate the brain with what it is made of we can help create the nutritional foundation making it possible for the brain to heal itself.
Following a concussion, Dr. Lewis recommends taking five 1,000 milligram capsules of fresh, concentrated fish oil morning, noon, and night, which will supply 9,000 milligrams of combined bioactive omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA daily. This nutritional support should continue for at least a week, or until symptoms abate, whichever is longer, at which time supplementation should continue at gradually reduced dosages.
Patients typically notice improvements within the first week, often in the first several days. Depending on the individual and the injury, patients have described being able to think more clearly, having more energy throughout the day, decreased headache frequency and/or intensity, and a sense of calmness, says Dr. Lewis. The individual results may vary.
Using Hemp-derived CBD oil to address post-TBI depression & anxiety:
Dr. Lewis says oil that he often uses with TBI patients experiencing lingering depression and anxiety is hemp-derived CBD oil. CBD oil, or cannabidiol oil, is derived from agricultural hemp but does not produce a high for the user as it contains less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive compound THC found in other cannabis plants.
CBD oils potential to enhance neurological health even motivated the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to obtain a patent on CBDs medical use under the title: Cannabidiol as a Neuro-protectant and Antioxidant. One of the authors of that patent is a Nobel Prize researcher who first described serotonin in neurotransmitters.
CBD oil not only helps protect the brain from injury, but we’ve observed that it is also highly effective in alleviating post-concussion depression and anxiety, and because it is derived from hemp, it’s available as a nutritional supplement without a prescription, says Dr. Lewis. Our clinic has had great success with PlusCBD oil from CV Sciences, an extracted oil containing high concentrations of CBD and over 500 other distinct biochemical compounds naturally found in the hemp plant, all working synergistically.
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What is a concussion and what causes it?
2. When did you first become aware that the omega-3 essential fatty acids in fish oil could be effective in treating concussions and more serious brain injuries?
3. How much fish oil should a concussion victim take after experiencing head trauma?
4. You’ve recently begun to administer CBD oil as an additional nutritional tool to help alleviate the anxiety experienced by brain trauma victims. Tell us what CBD is and what it does.
5. Is hemp-derived CBD available without a doctors prescription?
6. Besides head trauma victims, who should be taking hemp-derived CBD supplements?
7. What hemp-derived CBD supplement do you use in your clinic?
8. How can listeners get more information?
ABOUT MICHAEL D. LEWIS, MD, MPH, MBA, FACPM, FACN
Dr. Michael D. Lewis is an expert on nutritional and holistic interventions for brain health, particularly the use of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention, management, and rehabilitation of concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI). He founded the Brain Health Education and Research Institute (www.brainhealtheducation.org) in late 2011 upon retiring as a Colonel after a distinguished thirty-one-year career in the US Army. His pioneering work in the military and since has helped thousands of people around the world and is regularly featured in the media, including CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, show and numerous radio shows and podcasts. A graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and Tulane University School of Medicine, Dr. Lewis is board-certified and a fellow of the American Colleges of Preventive Medicine and Nutrition. He completed postgraduate training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He is currently in private practice in Potomac, Maryland (BrainCARE, www.BrainCARE.center); is a consultant to the US Army and Navy as well as several organizations, institutes, and nutrition companies around the world; and is a founding member of the Pop Warner Youth Football Medical Advisory Board.