I had the most fascinating thing happen last month. I got a 12-minute treatment for dry eyes that my optometrist recommended and without changing my glasses prescription I was able to see SOOOOO much better.
Driving home, I felt like a kid at Disney World looking around in awe at all the details. Everything was so sharp and clear. Kind of like you feel after getting a new pair of glasses or contacts. Or it feels watching a 3-D movie.
And walking the dogs in the dark that night was dramatically better. The difference before and after treatment really blew me away!
Being in the brain injury rehab world, I had heard some info on dry eyes but now I really get it.
Besides going to the eye doctor each year and eating your carrots, people don’t talk much about what you can do for your eye health.
It’s more important than ever because we all have so much screen time.
Anytime you’re focusing on a screen (any screen), you’re blinking less among other things.
We’ve got some tiny oil glands in our eyelids that help keep the eye lubricated and love it when we blink. Apparently, they also love heat and massage.
The treatment I got a week ago was a heat and massage for my eyelids called LipiFlow. It helps unblock those tiny oil glands that get backed up for various reasons.
I didn’t realize all the things I could do to help them function better. Honestly, I didn’t really know they existed until this past month.
Here’s what I’ve learned you can do to counter screen time and help support the function of these tiny oil glands:
Not sure if you’ve got dry eyes? Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Burning, dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, contact lens intolerance, eye fatigue.
MINI MOVEMENT BREAKS
Just like our eyes need breaks when we spend too much time focusing, the body needs to MOVE to feel good and work well.
We preach & teach about mini movement breaks throughout the day because the research shows it all adds up to support your brain and body health whether it’s 3 breaths, 3 reps, or 3 minutes of movement.
Mini Moves, as we call them, done throughout the day can help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Your brain likes to move especially after long periods of sitting or focusing on a task.
When your brain slows down, or brain fog sets in, it’s time to MOVE.
Ignore these signals and you’ll likely get more easily frustrated, be less focused, and less productive.
Want to feel, move, and perform better?
We’ve got 16 mini moves for you to experiment with and see which ones work best for your body (including another eye massage exercise you can do). They take anywhere from 3 reps to 3 minutes to do.
Download the MINI MOVES Daily Planner & Cheat Sheet to help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Enjoy & don’t forget to blink!
P.S. Download this free daily planner to help you pick out a few self-care & mini moves each morning. Your body will love them!
Do you wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free on most days?
Did you know that’s even possible?
Lots of clients tell us they’ve always been tight, are living with aches and pains, and assume they always will be.
Because that’s what happens when you get older, right?
You’re not destined to a life of stiff or sore muscles, slowing down, and eventually falling and breaking your hip.
Stiff joints, sore muscles, and fatigue are all signs of over-training (or over-doing) and not giving your body enough rest or recovery time between your workouts and activities.
Your body needs time to work its magic…to heal and repair itself.
Stiff, sore muscles are also signs you need to work on your mobility or flexibility.
The truth is…
You can win the battle against gravity, sitting, adhesions from old injuries, and the impact exercise has on your body’s flexibility as you age.
It’s possible even if you’ve never touched your toes.
It’s about technique and knowing what to target.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can see how easy they are to sprinkle into your day.
The pill-free way…
So, how can you stop struggling with stiff, sore muscles and fatigue?
You can stretch.
You know that thing you skip when you're trying to squeeze in a quick workout.
But, here's the deal.
Healthy tissue isn’t stiff. It’s elastic. Bungee cord like versus rope like.
Is that how you feel when you move right now?
If not, it’s OK because it’s never too late to improve your flexibility.
The first step…
Stretching is the first step to bringing the spring back into your tissue (after having good hydration and sleep habits).
And it doesn't take a lot of time when you know what to target and what to do before and after you stretch.
Just like we’ve evolved from flip phones to smart phones, we’ve made advances in stretching that’ll make a lasting impact on your flexibility and posture.
If you feel pain with stretching, you’ve gone too far…
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing an athlete on the sidelines getting his hamstring cranked on by a trainer. There is such a thing as over-stretching.
Bottom line: if you have pain with stretching, your body will tighten up more. The body’s response to pain is to protect, tighten up, guard.
And since you’re the best judge of what’s painful or not, you’re the one who should be the stretch “super star” of your body.
You can help your body stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age when you know # 1 thing to target with your stretching and how to stop over-stretching.
We’ll show you how in our FREE training, MINI MOVES: How to have more energy, ease, and flow in your workouts (& life).
In this free mini training series, you’ll learn:
READY TO BE ACTIVE & AGILE AT ANY AGE?
The technique we’ll share with you can benefit everyone. We’ve used it on clients with chronic neck or back pain to professional athletes.
Our pros always seem to achieve their personal best after a treatment (i.e. no hitter, new race time).
Are we promising you’ll become as flexible as a prima ballerina if you stretch daily? No, anatomy and genetics does play a role.
But it’s never too late to improve your flexibility…
if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes a day on simple self-care stretches and moves.
Let's get you stretching with (lasting) benefits!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Sign up before 6/10/19 to get the free Mini Moves training – it's in 3 short parts (just like your stretch self-care can be) to help you feel better, move better, and ultimately live better.
Whenever you set a new fitness goal, its completely normal to get off track while it’s becoming a habit. You’ll most likely go too hard, too fast and burn yourself out. It’s human nature.
The research tells us this will happen to ALL of us. 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned in the first two weeks of January!
What’s more important is how fast you bounce back. How resilient you are. Not that you got off track.
You can build your resilience muscle. It just takes practice picking yourself up. In order to do that you have to become mindful of when you get off track. The faster you realize it, the faster you can start up again.
You’ve also got to learn to let go of the guilt of eating that cookie or not going to the gym. Before you go beating yourself up, focus on the fact you caught yourself or noticed that sneaky habit of procrastination and commit to starting over.
It’s OK if you over complicate it, overwhelm yourself, or get distracted by the new shiny object. We want it all NOW. New things excite us. They turn on our brain’s happy hormones. How many books have you started that you haven’t finished?
Whether it’s the holidays, a vacation, or a busy schedule that throws you off track, having the mindset of expecting to get distracted will make it much easier to get focused again on your goal.
Besides working on your mindset around goals, you can try these tips to help you stay and get back on track with them. Take 5-10 minute to reflect on the following when setting a new goal:
Download your Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet to help you avoid burning yourself out with your new fitness goal.
Keep in mind that fitness goals are really the steps that make up a larger lifestyle journey. It's about deep breaths and baby steps. It’s about progress not perfection. You're training for a marathon not a sprint. Building your resilience muscle will help you stay on course.
You’ve got this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Avoid burnout & overwhelm with the Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet - it's free! Download here.
Want to knock out some of those projects piling up on your to do list? You’ve got to try this time management tool/brain hack.
Your feel-good neurotransmitters, Serotonin and Dopamine, will be flowing to help you push past procrastination and avoid the burnout of trying to do too much at once.
I used it to go through our garage (in 100 degree summer heat) and 2 closets quickly without ending up exhausted or overwhelmed.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique™. It’ll help you better estimate the time and energy it takes to do a task.
You can use it to:
Focusing your attention on ONE thing, breaking it down, and building in breaks allows you to keep going without getting over fatigued and to finish the task quickly.
The next time you look at your to do list with dread or feel the weight of an unfinished project, train yourself to say, “I’ve got this. I’m gonna do just one Pomodoro Round.”
You won’t believe how much you get done and how great you’ll feel. Want to dive deeper, go to www.pomodorotechnique.com to learn more.
Let me know what you got done using this technique in the comments.
P.S. Not sure what to do after a run or on your recovery day? Download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
Do you stretch before or after you run? If not, is it because of time constraints or confusion over which stretches are best?
Since 53-90% of active runners get injured each year, it’s worth taking a moment to consider your running warm up and recovery routine.
Running is a contact sport. It’s a series of controlled falls with rotation and the force generated on your knee and foot can be 3-12 times your body weight.
Stretching with proper breathing prepares your nervous system for your next activity.
If you’re going to run, you need to turn on your nervous system. If you’re going to relax, you need to calm it down.
A boxer isn’t going to throw a punch in the ring without warming up on the mitts. If you run, you need to warm up your hips and prepare your legs for the contact.
How you spend your day effects your play.
Your connective tissue (“fascia”) takes the shape of what you do most. If you sit most of the day, your hips are going to be tight in the front (your hip flexors).
Are you going from sitting in a chair most of the day to running? How long do you sit in the car before you run?
What about after your typical run. Do you plop back into a chair or sofa as soon as you’re done?
Tight hip flexors can cause your gluteal (buttock) muscles to not fire properly. The glutes give you power, speed and stability when running. If they aren’t working properly, the hamstrings have to work harder which can lead to hamstring injuries or cramping.
Opening up the hips before you run will help turn on your gluteal muscles as well as improve your posture, speed and stride.
If you run/jog typically on flat surface long distance (versus a sprinter), we recommend you target the hip flexors (front of hip) before and after you run.
The runner’s lunge stretch will help activate, open up and reset your hips. In the video, Ender shows you how simple it is to modify it before and after you run.
When stretching always:
Runner’s stretch sequence (shown in the video):
PRO TIP: Stretch with a 2 to 1 ratio- start and end stretching on your tight side to give those areas a little more attention and create more balance in your body.
Stretching is one of the best ways to keep your tissue healthy and elastic - bungee cord like not rope like.
REMEMBER: Breath and stretch faster before you run. Breath and stretch slower after you run. Always stretch with control and good form. Never force your tissue to release.
Do you stretch before or after running? If so, leave a comment and let us know your favorite stretch.
Mollie & Ender
The mind-body connection is powerful. Studies show our movements and thoughts impact our health significantly.
Did you know you can shift your mood or boost your immune system with something as simple as sitting up straight in a chair?
A study found that those who had good posture during a mock job interview reported less stress, more confidence and better moods versus those that slumped. Better posture equals better blood flow and less stress on the heart.
Most of us exercise regularly because of the known health benefits and for stress relief. When we can’t get to the gym, any guilt we feel over missing a workout can put extra stress on us.
It’s time to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts. There are many activities you do daily that give you the same health benefits of exercise that you may not be aware of.
Here are 4 ways to experience less stress and the benefits of a workout without breaking a sweat.
Research shows standing in a Power Pose for 2 minutes boosts your confidence and mood.
A Power Pose is when you have your arms and chest open such as in Wonder Woman pose (hands on hips and feet apart) or arms open in a Victory position like you just won a race.
Start doing power poses before you try something new, before your next big meeting, or just as a pick me up when you are feeling low energy.
You’ll feel more confident, focused, and energized similar to what you experience after a strength training workout.
POWER OF BELIEF
Do you believe you exercise enough? Studies show that if you believe you are exercising enough, your body will show the health benefits and vice versa.
A 4 week study found that when participants were told their work of cleaning hotel rooms was good exercise and met the requirement of an active lifestyle, they all showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index compared to the control group.
It’s the placebo effect in action as nothing else had changed except their belief that their work was a form of exercise.
If you believe you aren't exercising enough compared to others, then it creates mental stress which can impact your health and body mass index. The key is to think positively daily that you are and have done enough in terms of exercise and taking care of your body.
It helps to re-frame how you see exercise and realize your daily activities and work tasks do count as part of your daily exercise requirements. All movement counts. Shoot, I guess that means dusting counts as a workout.
POWER OF LAUGHTER
Laughing boosts your mood and your immune system but it also gives you some of the same health benefits of exercise. It increases blood flow to your tissue as well as increases your blood pressure and heart rate.
Everyone knows how a good belly laugh is a great abdominal workout. It can also help with pain.
Norman Cousins shared in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, that 10 minutes of watching a comedy gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep.
If you can’t get to the gym, watch a comedy or hang out with that friend who makes you laugh. You can also try a Laughter Yoga class. Yes, it exists.
POWER OF A SMILE
Smile more even if you have to fake it because the act of smiling improves your mood by producing endorphins like exercise.
You’re going for a smile that makes your eyes crinkle to get the most benefits. Smiling in the mirror is an even more powerful exercise.
Which one of these techniques are you going to try the next time you don’t have time for a traditional workout?
Shifting how you think about exercise can play a huge role in your overall health and how long you live.
You’re worth it!
P.S. Grab your FREE Download of the Head to Toe Posture Checklist to help you strike your best Power Pose!
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout the years of working in brain injury rehab.
My motto while working on the brain injury unit at TIRR Hospital in Houston Medical Center was “you never know” what someone’s full recovery will look like. I always tried not to focus on the damage but instead on the strengths the patient had at the time I was meeting them and how to build on that.
The brain is able to rewire due to neuroplasticity with the right stimulation, rest, challenge and attitude.
When you go through something traumatic like a brain injury, it’s the things we take for granted that become important goals: walking, talking, eating, or spending time with your loved ones. In order to stay motivated to achieve those goals, it’s your attitude that plays a huge role in staying the course.
Working with and helping people is a two way street. I always learn a lesson or two (or three) from those I have the privilege to guide through their recovery as a Physical Therapist.
From Steve Lawton, I learned the power of positivity in the healing process. I was thrilled to hear in January that Steve was sharing his story of recovery from a ski accident through his new book, “Head First- a crash course in positivity”.
You CAN build your capacity to be positive just like you can build strength in a muscle.
Steve’s new book is a great way to learn how to strengthen your positivity muscle. His book launch at Book People happened to be the week prior to my dad’s colon cancer surgery.
Hearing Steve share his story reminded me to take one day at a time and focus on what I can control. My thoughts and attitude were really all I could control.
I’ve been through two cancer journeys with my mom and brother that showed me the difference between catching it early versus catching it late. Deep down I felt that we had found my dad’s cancer early but it’s so easy to get worked up about the what if’s when your waiting for a diagnosis. I didn’t want dad to spend the next several years battling this disease into his late 70’s.
I needed to trust the physician and nurses to do their best and that we could handle whatever they found during the surgery. I also chose to focus on all the things that had led up to us finding this tumor and the timing of it.
There is never a good time to go through a cancer diagnosis/treatment but if it had been a year ago, my dad wouldn’t have been a surgical candidate. And we wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t been on blood thinners to decrease his risk for another stroke.
Ironically, I heard Steve speak again two weeks after my dad’s colon surgery. We’d gotten excellent news. We’d found the cancer early and no further treatment was needed.
That was a huge relief but due to my dad’s age he was recovering slowly from the anesthesia which meant a week in the hospital plus 10 days in inpatient rehab.
My goal after his surgery was to get him out of the hospital environment as fast as possible. The longer you’re in the medical system, the more medications you can end up on and the higher your risk for infection. It’s also stressful and disruptive to not only the patient but the family to be in that world.
It just wasn’t safe to bring dad home yet. He needed more time to heal.
This second time I heard Steve speak, I was struggling with balancing all the demands from my dad’s medical needs, the delay home and trying to get myself out of survival mode.
Steve’s message was perfectly timed as he shared with us how he shifted from survival to recovery mode during his amazing journey back to life. He emphasized the importance of making the shift from “why me” to “what now” to get out of overwhelm and victim mode after a traumatic event.
To make the shift, you can begin by looking at what went right, finding the gratitude for those things and refocusing on your next goal.
Even though I was very grateful for the good news from the surgeon and all the things that caused us to find my dad’s cancer early, the delay in getting my dad home was making it difficult to calm myself and my life back down.
I recognized I needed to take advantage and get myself back on track with my daily routines to be ready for the next phase in dad’s recovery.
I didn’t have total control of my time yet but I could focus on the small moments I did have available to do breathing exercises, make healthier food choices, do some type of exercise, spend time with my dogs and get outside as much as possible. I also made an acupuncture appointment to help reset my nervous system.
All of these choices added up to help me get out of feeling overwhelmed and refueled me just in time to help my dad transition home.
Another way to build your positivity muscle and ability to reset your attitude throughout the day is to have a daily practice from 10 minutes to an hour where you focus on things that calm, center and refocus you.
You have to find what works for you but doing some form of meditation, journaling, and/or exercise is usually a good place to start. Steve’s book has some practical tips on how to begin a morning routine as well.
I had been doing this kind of a practice most mornings prior to my dad’s surgery so I was able to tap back into the routines to help me get out of survival mode much faster than if I hadn't developed one.
Steve’s story of recovery is powerful- fighting for his life after hitting a tree head first while skiing at Breckenridge, CO in 2014 to writing and launching a book about it in 2017!
I encourage you to check out his book that covers 8 steps to increase your positivity, watch his Ted Talk and/or take the Positivity Quiz on his website: stevehlawton.com to learn more about building your positivity muscle. It’s been a great resource for me.
Remember -Anything is Possible!
Besides being hard to pronounce, do you really know what a Kegel is? It’s a strengthening exercise for your pelvic floor (PF) muscles which run from the basin between your pubic bone and tailbone.
If you think of the pelvis like a bowl, the muscles would cover the inside of the bowl (with some holes in the bottom depending on your gender). During a Kegel, you contract and relax those muscles. Even men can do them.
A lot of women believe it’s normal to leak as you get older when laughing, jumping, coughing, or running. That’s actually a sign of a weak pelvic floor.
And doing a 1000 crunches isn’t going to strengthen them!
Most likely your physician has told you to remember to do your Kegel’s at your annual visit. It’s common to have NO clue what you're supposed to feel. I've found that most of my clients are doing the Kegel wrong because they are pushing out during the exercise.
What does the PF do?
These important muscles form the base of your "core” and help with sphincter control, supporting the pelvic organs and are involved in sexual sensation.
What’s the big deal?
When they’re weak, you can have incontinence (leaking of urine or bowel), organ prolapse (bladder, uterus or rectum) and diminished sexual response. Again they form the base of a strong core.
Your core is your center from lower ribs to below your bottom. All movement begins here in the stabilizer muscles- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, low back (Multifidus). The Transverse Abdominus (TA) muscles, your deepest abdominals that are so hard to workout, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your PF. When strengthening your core, you want to focus on PF first by doing the Kegel exercise.
Still not convinced it’s worth the effort?
Well how about if you knew it would help you have better sex (i.e. stronger orgasms) or to help flatten your belly? Besides those benefits, a strong core has been shown to decrease risk for injury in athletes.
Before I share how to do a proper Kegel and turn on your core, you need to know that:
Also ladies- you’ll notice that it’s easier to do them during the middle of your cycle and more difficult at the beginning of it due to hormone changes. Just keep at it!
How do you find your PF?
This exercise will help you feel the contraction of the PF muscles so you know when they are working:
What’s the proper way to strengthen your PF?
Most likely you were not breathing while you did the movement above. It would be embarrassing to pass out from a Kegel. So now we have to learn how to breathe while you do the contraction of the PF:
You can practice this exercise anytime- while driving, doing chores, lifting children, standing in line. You can do it while lifting weights or running. The more complicated the activity you are doing, the more challenging it will be to hold the Kegel and breathe. The more you do a few reps throughout the day, the stronger the PF and TA will become to help flatten your belly and increase your pelvic support as well as strengthen sensations during sex (i.e. stronger orgasms).
7 bonus resources for having or maintaining a healthy PF:
4. Unlock your hip muscles prior to doing Core exercises. Target the Psoas (hip flexors) and glut muscles with trigger point massage tools and stretching for example Pigeon Pose.
5. Want to challenge your core (and your injury free)? Find a Pilates or Pure Barre studio near you to strengthen your body at least 2 times a week.
6. Check out the Squatty Potty™- a toilet stool that puts your body in the best posture for pooping which will take pressure off your PF especially if you struggle with constipation.
7. Lastly, most women could use more pleasure and fun in their life. Right? Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts is a great resource for helping you get back in touch with your feminine (pleasure) side.
Want to be more calm, focused, and creative? Try some mindful walking with your dog.
Why? It’s the perfect trifecta to get all the health benefits of walking, mindfulness, and being in nature.
Walking is not only good for your cardiovascular system but can increase your creativity by 60%. Just 20 minutes of walking can build healthy neurons and produce those happy hormones we all crave.
Practicing mindfulness can bring clarity, improve attention, lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and boost your mood.
Spending time in nature and/or with your pet can promote a healthy heart, decrease anxiety and also get rid of the blues.
Plus, it’s easier to create a habit when you tie it to something you already do such as walking your dog.
How? Take your dog on a walk for 5-20 minutes. Let your dog guide you on the walk and be your focal point. Your dog is your cue to stay present. When you are walking, go with the flow. If your dog starts to chew wood like ours did in this video, well you go with it.
Watch this video on how easy it is to bring mindfulness into your dog walking:
Try this technique on your next walk with your pooch. And if you happen to be a cat parent, feel free to give it a try. Seriously, some folks walk their cat on a leash (don't force it though). We want to see you and your dog/s picture after your walk. Share them with us in the comments below or using the #mindfulpetwalk.
Peace & Love,
Mollie & Ender
P.S.- really stressed out, try meditating with your pet.
Cooler temps. Tailgaters out. The beer is flowing.
Welcome to concussion season, I mean football (or futbol) season. It’s in full swing!
Hopefully you saw the movie Concussion that shed light on the story of how the NFL finally acknowledged that their players are at risk for some serious brain damage (chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE) from the repetitive hits to the head they endure throughout their careers. The movie told the story well but glossed over how you can decrease the risk for CTE by actually managing concussions in a different way.
The brain is not a muscle but it bruises somewhat like a muscle does when injured. Sprain your ankle and it bruises, swells, hurts. You can’t put weight on it so you don’t walk. You slowly put more weight on it as it heals. What bruising looks like in the brain is headache, dizziness, nausea, difficulty reading, irritability in noisy environments, light sensitivity, memory issues, confusion etc. While it’s healing, the brain needs to avoid taking another hit. It needs time to recover. Rest is key. Unlike a sprained ankle, you can’t see it so it’s hard to decide when it’s safe to go back to normal activities.
Ender and I get calls this time of year from our friend’s with kids in sports. A lot of soccer and football parents. The kids seem younger and younger. It’s the same scenario. Their kid got a concussion and was told not to play until they felt better. The parents aren’t sure when to let them go back to practice. Their kid is still having headaches when they try to read or in class, they feel funny when they run and/or they don’t have much energy. Although we don’t offer medical advice, here is some information and resources that we share with them (besides reminding them to always consult their physician).
First, they need to advocate for their kid and put aside their concerns about their sports career. They are parents first, coach or manager second. This is a big deal. It’s their kid’s future with or without sports. They don’t want their kid to get another concussion while the other one is healing. It’s not like 1+1= 2. It’s 1 + another one (concussion) = 5. Brain damage is exponential. And keep in mind the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid 20’s (around age 26 for girls).
What's a concussion really?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It’s caused by a jolt or blow to the head causing the brain to bounce around inside the skull. This stretches and damages brain cells and is sometimes referred to as shearing.
It’s not going to necessarily show up on scans/MRI’s because it can be microscopic tears. 90% won’t lose consciousness. It can take 3-5 days to show signs. 50-70% go unreported. More than a third happen in practice. That means you’ve really got to be on the lookout for the symptoms of a concussion.
Common symptoms include dizziness, double vision, confusion, nausea and sensitivity to light or noise. Also feeling sluggish, foggy, or down. You may notice they’re more emotional (angry, irritable, or crying), have changes in behavior or personality (an outgoing kid becomes more isolated), moving clumsily, and/or forgetful (in the game, they may forget their position or the score).
There are 3.8 million sports related concussions a year. 1 in 5 school athletes will sustain one this year.
Cycling is higher risk (25%) for concussion than football and baseball (14%). Did you see Annemiek Van Vleuten, the Dutch cyclist, crash in Women’s Road Race 2016 Rio Olympics? Yikes- please wear your helmet when cycling! Basketball’s (11%) next. There is less than a 10% risk for water sports, power RV, soccer, skateboards, fitness, or winter sports.
Athletes with a recent concussion are approximately 2.5 times more likely to suffer a leg injury within 90 days after return to play compared to athletes without a concussion. Why? One reason might be because the brain controls our ability to move properly and whatever side of the brain was injured, the other side of the body could be more at risk for injury while it’s healing.
Playing with a concussion also doubles recovery time. A recent study of 12 to 19 year olds playing contact sports found it took 22 vs 44 days to recover if they didn’t rest 24 to 48 hours after a concussion.
Bottom line: proper rest after concussion will help you return to sport more quickly.
Listen, I get it. The pressure to get back in the game is real. Even though I’ve been in brain injury rehab for over 20 years, I love football and we are UFC fanatics. I grew up in Texas with two younger brothers that were groomed to be the high school quarterback stars from the age 10. My brothers had pressure their whole childhood from our dad and coaches for all the sports they played. Our dad made dance moms look sane.
My youngest brother hadn’t even woken up from anesthesia after a surgery to repair a compound fracture to his left leg from a freaky tackle his senior year and my dad was asking the trauma surgeon when he could play baseball. You see my dad was obsessed with him getting a baseball scholarship that he couldn’t even process that my brother might not be able to walk normal much less run.
My brothers tell stories now of coaches pulling them out of class to talk about the games or pressure them to choose one sport (in high school). And they were healthy. If you’re an ill or injured athlete, there’s much more pressure to get back in the game or lose your spot. Even on the drill team we had that issue. If we didn’t practice, we couldn’t perform and you might not ever get back in the lineup.
In reality, the worst pressure is probably coming from your kid because all they want to do is please their coach and you. They’re going to want to play so it’s your job to know what to look for. You know your kid best. You’re looking for changes in their personality, behaviors, mood, and routines. Until that gets back to normal, they probably shouldn’t practice much less play.
Although schools and universities are more aware of the concussion issue, it really depends on what kind of economic resources your school has for how they handle return to play. It’s really up to the athlete and their parents to be on top of their “brain” game. It’s really no different than any other medical or health concern, the more you advocate for yourself, the better.
You might need to seek medical help outside of the school. Elite athletes put together a team outside of their agent, manager, or league to take care of their body (and mind). It’s never too early to take this approach to sports. Even if your kid isn’t going pro, they’re going to want to have a healthy brain as they pursue college, work or a relationship.
If your kid is playing a sport, figure out if your school has a protocol for concussions and what the return to play guidelines are. Find out if your area has a Concussion Clinic and tuck that into your back pocket.
After a concussion, the typical recommendation is to slowly return to normal activities under the supervision of a physician. But honestly what does that mean?
THE KEY IS TO GIVE THE BRAIN TIME TO HEAL!
Here’s what you can do to assist the recovery if your kid does get a concussion in practice or a game:
SIGNS OF OVERDOING IT: onset of headache, fatigue, irritability, eye fatigue-blurred vision, dizziness, anxiety/worry, insomnia, difficulty focusing and remembering things either during or after activities.
THE SOLUTION: If your activities bring on symptoms, the answer is rest and taking breaks. Also keep your physician informed and follow his advice. Notice how you feel the next day after trying new activities. If your symptoms have flared up, you may have overdone it the day before. It’s helpful to keep a calendar with your activities to refer to so you can adjust your pace as needed.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: get professional help if symptoms last more than a month such as ongoing dizziness, headaches, vision issues, sensitivity to light and noise or mood issues. Also reach out if your kid had a concussion in the past and never really bounced back or something just seems off (maybe they are now struggling in school and hadn’t in the past). The sooner you get help, the better. Here are some resources:
THE GOOD NEWS: The brain can repair and heal because of neuroplasticity (ability to create new neurons/connections and compensate for injury or damage) if it’s given the right amount of rest balanced with just enough stimulation. It’s a dance but if you listen to the symptoms, they will guide you on how to pace your activities as the brain recovers.
If you need some brain Injury resources for Texas, email me at email@example.com.
PLEASE NOTE: CORE POWER HEALTH & FITNESS, INC. (“WE,” “US” OR “OUR”) DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD CONSULT A LICENSED PHYSICIAN PRIOR TO BEGINNING OR MODIFYING ANY EXERCISE, FITNESS, DIET OR NUTRITION PROGRAM THAT YOU UNDERTAKE. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT EXERCISE ACTIVITIES INVOLVE RISKS WHICH MAY INVOLVE RISK OF BODILY INJURY OR DEATH, AND THAT YOU ASSUME THOSE RISKS. IN NO EVENT SHALL WE BE LIABLE FOR ANY INJURY THAT YOU SUFFER, OR THAT YOU CAUSE TO ANY PERSON OR ENTITY, IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR USE OF THE SITE.
Mollie Miller, PT