Every year in the United States, roughly two million individuals sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Approximately 60,000 of these patients die, and the remainder proceed through life with various disabilities. Unfortunately, many of the brain-injured individuals, including a significant number of athletes and soldiers today, live a life of despair and decline in function.
TBI often occurs after a head injury because the brain starts to swell, pressing the brain tissue against its skull. Sadly, reckless behavior among young people and contact sports are responsible for a large portion of these incidents.
The use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) as part of rehabilitation protocol for TBI has been gaining recognition in recent years with results that include restoration of personality, individual uniqueness and the sense of self.
HBOT is an FDA- and AMA-approved medical treatment that involves administration of pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure to a patient in order to improve or correct certain medical conditions in which tissues have been damaged by oxygen deprivation. Current FDA-approved HBOT indications include crush injury, gas gangrene, non-healing and diabetic wounds, arterial insufficiency, intracranial abscesses, necrotizing soft tissue infections, osteomyelitis, thermal burns and more. Other oxygen-deprived conditions for which HBOT has proven effective include birth injuries (such as cerebral palsy), autism, stroke and cardiac arrest.
With brain injuries, HBOT delivers oxygen-enriched blood to areas of the brain affected by the injury. These blood cells activate idling neurons, allowing them to take over the function of the dead cells aiding patients in regaining use of body parts which have become compromised by the injury such as speech, movement and memory. How a TBI patient responds depends on where the injury occurs in the brain and the extent of damage.
“During my high school, college and professional career, I probably had at least ten concussions of various degrees,” states a local retired professional football player who asked to remain anonymous. For the past three years he has participated in a study of former players who suffered concussions which includes HBOT as part of the treatment protocol. After each session, he is tested and his brain scanned. “With each test and scan, I can see the increase in brain activity.” He has seen many of his peers exhibit signs of brain weakening and feels that this treatment protocol has helped. “I feel strongly that HBOT has helped restore activity in my brain therefore slowing down the problems that many former players are experiencing.”
While studies on the effectiveness of hyperbaric medicine for TBI continue, many sufferers like medically retired Army sergeant Toby Yarbrough believe it has helped.1 Yarbrough started using HBOT five days a week and has seen changes that include eight hours of sleep each night, a decrease in seizures and improved concentration. After ten years of struggle, he is returning to college and leading an effort to encourage organizations such as the American Legion to sponsor other wounded veterans for hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
For more information on hyperbaric oxygen therapy contact Desert Hyperbaric Medicine at (760) 773.3899 or visit www.DesertHyperbaricMedicine.com.
Reference: 1) HamptonRoads.com; What’s Inside:The Dive with Vicki Cronis-Nohe September 13, 2014