Here’s what you didn’t know about concussions and how much goes into treating them

My Carolina

With football season well underway, concussion concerns are once again sparking a national debate over safety. Over the years, Raleigh neurologist Dr. Darcy Dane has treated patients with all kinds of contact sport-related brain injuries. One of the problems she has seen almost more than any other is concussions. As new information continues to come out about concussions and the long-term damage they can cause, doctors are urging adults and children alike to be proactive when it comes to protecting your brain.

In recent years, more and more athletes have started undergoing baseline testing to prepare for the possibility of a head injury on the playing field. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines baseline testing as “a pre-season exam conducted by a trained health care professional. Baseline tests are used to assess an athlete’s balance and brain function (including learning and memory skills, ability to pay attention or concentrate, and how quickly he or she thinks and solves problems), as well as for the presence of any concussion symptoms.” In the event of a mid-season injury, health care professionals can refer to the baseline test results to better assess any damage to the brain.

Dr. Dane’s baseline testing is a culmination of neurocognitive, oculomotor, vestibular and motor examinations. The following procedures are all part of concussion testing at Carolina Brain Center:

  • Video Oculography – Measures eye movement
  • Computerized Posturography – Tests sensory, motor, and balance capabilities
  • LatencyMeter — Visual Stamina Test
  • EQ Active Brain Tracking
  • Physical Exam
  • History

Dr. Dane’s multi-faceted approach to diagnosing concussions and brain injuries leads to a more accurate and in-depth diagnosis. That’s due largely in part to the priority she places on vestibular organs – the semicircular canals and otoliths found in the inner ear. This complex system affects things like motor control, learning, and perception.

“Many doctors do not study this system, but rather specialize in one part of the system,” says Dr. Dane. “At Carolina Brain Center, our integrative approach sets us apart from the rest. When you experience issues such as vertigo, unsteadiness, or dizziness, our neurologist in Raleigh, NC will evaluate the vestibular system to determine the root cause of your concerns.”

Dr. Dane is also educating her patients about two vestibular disorders that share some of the same side-effects as concussions. Diffuse Axonal Injury is a vestibular disorder that happens when the brain rapidly moves back and forth in the skull as a result of acceleration or deceleration. Unlike concussions, this condition is not caused by a blow to the head, which makes it harder for some doctors to diagnose. Visual Vestibular Mismatch is another sensory condition that happens when something overwhelms the eyes’ ability to evaluate their position in space.  

Vestibular Disorders also include things like vertigo, unsteadiness and dizziness, motion sickness. 

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