In 2015 , one of the top high school football recruits in the United States took a hit that left him with a minor concussion. After four days of following his doctor’s orders—rest and aspirin—he was still having trouble sleeping and concentrating.
That’s when his parents brought him to me. They’d heard I’d successfully treated other top recruits in the state with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), and that’s what they wanted for their son. His doctor had told them that recovery would take four to six weeks, but with the state championships coming up fast, they wanted to speed the process up if possible—and if it could be done safely.
“What are our options?” his father asked me.
“There’s just one,” I said and started his son on an aggressive regimen of mild HBOT: two hours in a hyperbaric chamber a day, five days a week.
Three weeks later, my patient was back on the field and—according to the stats—playing at 100 percent of his performance capacity. And six weeks later , he was under center for the team’s first state-tournament victory.
Today, he’s playing football at a top Southern university, and it might never have happened if his family hadn’t thought to look for an alternative to doctor’s orders. Many victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI) aren’t even aware they’ve suffered a TBI and go for years without treatment. They believe that the headaches, mood swings, inability to concentrate and depression they experience are “just part of life” for them. And the longer they live with the condition, the harder it is to overcome.
The critical window for treating a TBI is within the first forty-eight hours.
That’s how long the brain will continue to swell—to compromise the penumbra, the area around the neurons that have died. The sooner a patient spends time in an HBOT chamber, the better the chances that those cells in the penumbral area will make a full recovery.
And we’re not talking about the difference between a 50 percent chance and a 75 percent chance. When a patient follows the proper HBOT protocol, the chances of a full recovery are very close to 100 percent. Why are the results so reliable? Because Henry’s Law is so reliable.
Henry’s Law states that a gas’s solubility increases in direct proportion to the rate of pressure at which the gas is delivered. In the case of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for someone with a concussion, blood cells will—without fail—absorb more healing oxygen than they would absorb from the untreated air the patient would breathe while simply resting and taking aspirin. Because pressure is being taken off the inflamed tissues, the oxygen can make its way to the damaged area, giving it exactly the nutrient it needs. Always. And recent studies show that mild HBOT—which delivers oxygen at 1.3 times the pressure of the ambient atmosphere (ATA)—is more effective than stronger treatment when it comes to many conditions, including TBIs.
Combine Henry’s Law with a process that delivers a whole-body dose of oxygen—rather than just a dose to the lungs via a mask—and everything’s in place for optimum results. Bottom line: If a TBI patient’s recovery protocol includes significant time
spent in a hyperbaric chamber, the brain’s damaged neurons will have every reason to fully recover. Barring unavoidable variables, when a brain is getting all the oxygen it needs, there are no barriers to a return to health. Think of a penumbra like the bruise around any point of impact—the point of impact might be permanently damaged, but eventually the bruise will disappear entirely.
Keep in mind that all of this takes time. After the acute phase, it typically takes five to nine months and a total of 60 to 100 hour-long sessions to achieve the deep healing necessary for the most complete recovery possible. The average cost for the treatment ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 in total, which is much less than long-term costs to treat depression. Not to mention that HBOT can prevent the setbacks created by failing grades, loss of income and missed opportunities that occur when people lose their ability to concentrate.
As they say, don’t take my word for any of this. In fact, don’t take anybody’s word for it. The actions of some highly active people speak for themselves. People like 2016 Lamar Jackson, the University of Louisville quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2016. Two weeks before that season’s Citrus Bowl against Louisiana State University, Jackson suffered a concussion, and after undergoing the regimen I recommended using the team’s HBOT chamber, he was back in the huddle in time for the championship. Though LSU prevailed, Jackson took home the season’s Heisman and went on to be named a finalist for the trophy again the next season. In this year’s NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens picked him up in the first round.
I’ve treated hundreds of NFL and college players since 2007?, including Robert McCune, who ultimately joined the Canadian Football League and finished his career by helping the Toronto Argonauts to win the Grey Cup in the 2013 season. Some of the players came to me with TBIs, and some just wanted to improve their performance through HBOT. With the devastating effects of concussions among NFL players coming to light, it’s impossible to ignore HBOT’s potential role in their recovery—or its benefits to any athletes participating in high-impact sports.
Fortunately, HBOT is becoming more common. Rest and aspirin are still the most common treatment for TBIs, but word is finally getting out. Hyperbaric chambers have become standard equipment for many sports teams—I’ve installed chambers for three of the five top-ranked college football programs in the United States—and HBOT centers are popping up across the U.S. and Canada. And if there doesn’t happen to be one close to you, collapsible home units are available (by prescription from a physician or chiropractor) for as little as $4,000. (Canada has approved home units with a higher flow rate—1.5 ATA—than is available in the U.S.)
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved HBOT for conditions other than acute mountain sickness, but I’m among the practitioners who are trying to educate lawmakers, insurance companies and state medical and chiropractic boards about its benefits. It’s my hope that within ten years, mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy will be used as commonly across the general population as it is among professional athletes. Don’t we all deserve the best defense against the heartbreaking effects of brain injuries?
This article was submitted by Dr. Louis Hilliard for more information you can visit Atlanta Hyperbaric Center.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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