Don’t Overlook the Neck Following a Concussion

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the most serious injuries that someone can sustain. There are numerous types of traumatic brain injuries and they can range widely in severity. Recently, a research paper was published showing that neck injuries can accompany a traumatic brain injury. Often, when the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury are slow to heal, it might be because injuries to the neck, including the cervical spine, might have been overlooked. If an injury to the cervical spine is missed, it could explain why symptoms following a traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, might be slow to heal.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr. John Leddy shows that traditional symptoms that have been ascribed to brain injuries could also be due to an injury of the neck, specifically the cervical spine. Many of the symptoms that arise following a blow to the head can also be a sign that nearby structures could have been harmed. Some of the examples include the TMJ (located in the jaw), the vestibular ocular system (which can impact balance and vision), and the neck. Addressing neck injuries could even lead to a faster recovery from a traumatic brain injury. He even posited that a randomized controlled trial should be conducted using this hypothesis.

Regardless, anyone who suffers a blow to the head must also have the neck evaluated as well as the head. One vulnerable structure involved in many concussion injuries, as well as other TBIs, is called the Craniocervical Junction, often shortened to CCJ. This structure rests at the inferior surface of the skull. It plays a vital role in the stability of the neck and head. An injury to this area could alter the way blood flows throughout these structures, making the symptoms of a concussion worse. Some of the most common symptoms that people note include difficulty seeing, headaches, dizziness, poor concentration, and fatigue.

Finally, it is also incumbent on patients to be aware of these symptoms and to know when to see a doctor. The faster a head or neck injury is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated properly. In the future, it will be interesting to see if researchers take up the mantle of this hypothesis and test it. It has the potential to improve outcomes following a head injury.