Technology continues to expand at a miraculous rate. Your three-ounce Iphone can easily out process the 70-pound Apollo computer that sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.
As a guy on the front lines of concussion care it becomes easier and easier to rely on these technologies. Camera’s that follow eye movements, devices that monitor the smallest degree of postural sway, and portable headbands that can measure the electrical activity in your brain are all within arms reach at my clinic.
Yet the deeper I get pulled into the complex world of brain function and concussion care, the further I must look back. Back in history to acquire the clinical pearls of yesteryear. To discover techniques and strategies that have weathered the technological storm and continue to outperform any recent advancements. A group of folk (tribe to be precise) from Northern Norway are a great example and a constant source of inspiration:
Large male reindeer are vital to the Arctic Tundra. They must break layers upon layers of ice to reach the vegetation below and ensure their own and the herd’s survival.
Rudolf and all his mates are a lot more aggressive than you might expect. In fact, most male reindeer spend so much time banging and banging (fighting and sex), that this often leaves them physically unable to work the land. Ice begins to mount, food becomes scarce and the mighty reindeer starve and die. People follow shortly after.
Animal scientists devoted to saving the tundra had a great idea, “ Lets castrate a large portion of the herd. They will bang (both kinds) less and work the land more. Problem solved.” Not really.
Modern castration technology and tools destroyed the reindeer’s testicles completely. This left them feeble, weak and unable to do much of anything, including work the land. The reindeer and Arctic population continued towards extinction.
The Sami people of Northern Norway had an age-old solution far superior to anything technology had to offer. Semi castration via the art of testicle biting! ( too many of the 40K views are mine)
The Sami lasso up a big male, flip him on his side (against his will), spread his legs, grab his ball sack like you would your favourite burger, and bite down just enough to perform a partial castration (again against his will).
This partial castration causes no bleeding or infection, and leaves these guys with the perfect amount of testosterone. The reindeer now focuses on eating, growing huge, and working the land.
Can you imagine the level of skill and artistry involved in being able to chomp down just enough to further the survival of an entire species? The ability to not render poor Rudolf totally castrated with zero Gray’s Anatomy textbook or YouTube videos to guide their path.
A wise old Sami once told a journalist, “ You know this is very much an art. Sometimes less is more. Less is enough.”
I haven’t gone two days without a friend, parent, coach etc. contacting me wanting to start rehab for the newly concussed. They usually receive a concussion diagnosis via the hospital or family doctor and are promptly sent home to bed. A parent then calls me somewhere in between “concussion rehab” videos on YouTube, anxious to get little Johnny back on the ice, field, or classroom (usually all three) ASAP.
When the brain gets whacked around inside the skull a host of chemicals start going where they have no business. Potassium leaks out from disrupted brain cells while calcium starts rushing in. This puts the brain into a massively over excited state as the it tries to regain balance by consuming massive amounts of glycogen (sugar).
Less is more! When you, your child, or anyone you know has been diagnosed with a concussion you must shut er down. No cell phones, No TV, No video games, No school etc. The brain needs total physical and emotional rest.
Like the Sami say, “ Less is more. Less is enough.” Rehabbing a brain in the midst of a chemical crisis can be counterproductive. Rest is the most important part of the initial recovery process!
Research has demonstrated that those individuals who stray from “the Sami way” usually suffer from concussion symptoms for longer periods of time. I know from first hand experience that nothing can be more boring than lying in bed while not even being allowed to count sheep (too much cognition). But are you really willing to exchange a few weeks of boredom for months or years of post concussion symptoms? I don’t think so.
Most people do fully recover within 7-10 days but up to 20% of patients will struggle for longer. For those patients rest is still the key until about the four-week mark which is when you can actively start rehabilitation. Even at that point I still adhere to the wise Sami “Less is more”. I never bite off more than I can chew.