Friday, October 30, 2015

Former Pro Volleyball Player's Life Changed By Upper Cervical Care

This article was originally published on (the website for the Association of Volleyball Professionals)
By Hans Stolfus 
As you can see, there’s no ‘Advertisement’ tag in the upper right hand corner of this page. No one has paid me to dispense the endorsement you’re about to read. I simply feel compelled to share my story as others suffering from a similar condition may benefit greatly from this information.
Anyone who followed my short-lived career on the sand is aware things began to dramatically unravel in 2007 after an acute neck injury limited my mobility to a point where nonstop health maintenance and physical therapy care were necessary just to continue competing. And even then my game was submarginal at best, only I didn’t have another source of income, so the motto became “fight through it” or pack my bags and move to the third pillar under the ‘Pier.’
Pain and tightness turned to pressure. Pressure turned to headaches and eventual migraines. Migraines turned to a life without light and meals spent on the floor. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I saw chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, Rolfers, Heller Care Professionals, trainers, medical doctors, migraine, pain and cervical spine specialists, and rheumatologists. I visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the Headache Institute in Newport Beach, Calif., and Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, Calif.
Diagnosis by Karen Newcomer at Mayo: nothing. Mild degeneration between C4-C5-C6 (vertebrae of the cervical spine) and some moderately bad posture likely attributed to the pectus excavatum headlining my sternal cavity.
Diagnosis & Treatment by Philip O’Carroll at the Headache Institute: botox (yes, botox) into the neck muscles to release tension, nightly nerve pain meds, Treximet for Migraines, and a range of motion routine I had received from at least 36 previous practitioners.
Diagnosis & Treatment by Steven Graff-Radford at Cedars Sinai: two successive nerve injections and a Radiofrequency Neurotomy on the nerves surrounding C2 and C3. Yes, that’s right; I had them burn off nerve endings with the purpose of interfering daily pain signals. I resorted to the unthinkable. It was that or take a detour off PCH into the underlying brush like Junior Seau. And although it removed some of the immediate pain and pressure, it did nothing to fix the root of the problem.
Fast forward three months… walk by a “Busy Body” in Newport Beach, decide to stop in and inquire about a rowing machine for my apartment complex gym — as normal exercise remained completely out of the question, even after the neurotomy — explain my situation to the sales guy, listen to his “you should see this guy” spiel, roll my eyes invisibly, take the chiropractor’s card — which he just so happened to have on him — as to not seem rude, throw the card in the center council of my car, and then proceed to wait three weeks to dial the number and hear how this guy could somehow magically be ‘different‘ than all the rest.
To make an incredibly long story short, it turned out the Neurotomy wasn’t my last option after all. Although I had seen somewhere in the range of 300 previous chiropractors over the years, this guy’s practice was unlike anything I had previously heard of or experienced, focusing on the positioning of C1 (Atlas) and C2 (Axis) and their relationship to the brain stem, spinal cord, and entire central nervous system.
He used a series of numerous unorthodox x-rays, a prism-based stereoscopic viewing method to make each film ‘3D,’ a set of protractor-based measurements drawn on each ‘subluxated’ vertebrae, a heat sensitive instrument to test neurological transmission, a specific table to determine body symmetry, and a scientific technique to bring it all together and locate the problem so it could be fixed.
Bottom line: back in ’07 my atlas (C1) had been spun like a top and was pinching off a host of pain related nerves just beneath my skull ever since. One adjustment, which involved zero cracking or spinning of the head like typical ‘chiropractic,’ and not only did the pain and pressure disappear, but my vision improved, my short term memory began to return, and life started to seem like something worth living again. The procedure was most certainly heavy and intense, and prevented me from moving my head in any direction for 24 hours as a precautionary measure, but was, without a doubt, worth its weight in gold. My life changed the instant those nerves finally freed up, and I can’t imagine going back and feeling the way I did for almost four years ever again. And ready for this, it’s held. My body just needed to go back to the way it was meant to be and the rest has taken care of itself.
That’s it. Don’t want to preach, just want to inform. I tried it all and my solution came at a small office in Yorba Linda, Calif. at the hands of a gentleman by the name of Dr. David Topping. There’s only a handful of upper cervical “Blair” chiropractors in California and not many more scattered throughout the U.S. Why? I don’t want to get too ‘conspiracy theorist,’ but frankly there’s no profit margin in healing someone with only one visit. And that’s what practitioners like Topping are doing. They’re freeing up the nerve pathways from the brain to the body and finally allowing the body to heal itself. Not saying it’s for everybody, or that all patients will require only one adjustment as age and degeneration play an important role, but if you’ve got neck or back pain and have run the gamut like I had, might be time to try one more option. It could finally change everything.
And in case you’re wondering, I will play beach volleyball again. Maybe not at the professional level, but definitely for fun down in Corona Del Mar on a casual Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Football: The Greatest or Most Dangerous Sport in the World? Or Is It Both?

Football is the most popular sport in this country, having emphatically snatched away the undisputed title of “America’s favorite pastime” from baseball.  It is a tremendously entertaining game and an incredibly lucrative industry.  Yet, recent years have seen it come under fire for its inherent health risks.  Basic awareness of concussions has increased exponentially and with it has come increased scrutiny about the role that repetitive head trauma plays in the long (and short) term health of football players young and old, from the pee wee level to the National Football League. 
As the spotlight on the dangers of the game has grown substantially, so too have the number of questions being asked.  It is no longer just about college or professional athletes being grinded through a so-called exploitative system, but whether or not kids should ever be allowed to participate in youth leagues. 
Concussions had once thought to have been limited to trauma so substantial that it caused players to be knocked unconscious and, thus, restricting the population most susceptible to being concussed to the high school, college, and professional levels.  Now, however, a greater understanding has developed which acknowledges that concussions come in varying levels of severity.  A minor concussion may exhibit symptoms on a smaller scale.  Seeing stars, headaches, blurry vision, auditory or visual sensitivity, and dizziness are just a few of the common reactions to a concussive force to the head; be their duration a mere few minutes or sustained over several days or weeks, these symptoms are indicative of some sort of concussion. 
Justifiably, parents are more worried about their children.  The human body does not fully develop until the late teenage years.  Structural stability is established over many years, particularly the skull and vertebral column that surrounds and protects the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord, the integrity of which governs our basic core functions.  A child’s development could be stunted – structurally and internally – as a result of playing football. 
Controversy reigns over the sport.  It was back in 2011 when a retired NFL player sued the league for its supposedly "concerted effort of deception and denial" about the long-term damage that the sport could do to the human body.  That lawsuit eventually awarded former players a settlement of $765 million.  Nary has a month gone by these last four years without the latest wrinkle added to the developing story of concussions vs. football.  Chris Borland, a former University of Wisconsin All-American who had a fantastic rookie season as a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers last year, made waves this spring when he abruptly retired from the NFL in an effort to avoid future brain damage.  For a burgeoning star to quit football at age 24 was perhaps the start of a trend and the biggest sign of the changing times.  It was a bold move that inadvertently made Borland the de-facto face of the movement that believes football may not be around in another twenty or thirty years. 
Borland also represents a fascinating dichotomy that has emerged since traumatic brain injuries became such a prevalent water cooler topic: people who have deeply rooted passion for the game – players, coaches, and fans - are finding themselves torn between their love of football and the progressively clearer evidence that it is ruining peoples’ lives.  In a feature story in an August edition of ESPN The Magazine, Borland said he was reluctant to even watch football anymore and, when asked whether or not he would someday allow his kids to play, he responded, “I don’t know.  I don't think it's black-and-white quite yet.”
It certainly is not.  Family bonds are forged over football.  Important values are taught through it.  Fortunes are made from it.  Memories are created by it that last a lifetime.  So, attempts are being made to find a common ground; to better recognize its hazards and to use that attentiveness to make football safer.  Dr. Alex Powers is a neurosurgeon who works for Wake Forest University.  He is also an avid football fan.  His research and his passion for the sport are often at odds because Powers is one of the leading physicians exploring the topic of brain trauma as it relates to football.  According to an ESPN The Magazine article last fall, Labor Day weekend 2014 was a classic example of his plight.  He was in the lab, examining the charts of high school football players the week prior and then flew out with his two sons - both youth players - for a family vacation on the west coast to see the Oregon Ducks play on Saturday and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
According to Dr. Powers’ data, a single season of high school football does potentially irreversible damage to the brain in proportion to the severity and number of hits taken.  His stance has created widespread panic amongst football people.  Shawn Springs, a former Pro Bowl NFL player and the co-founder of a company that designs football helmets with greater safety measures, has told Powers that his research is going "to scare everyone to death...and kill football."  Doctors and researchers have told Powers, “You have to kill the game. There's no way, as a physician, that you can condone the data." 
All of us that have any interest in football are being forced to reevaluate our positions and form updated opinions based on the data that has become available, especially when determining whether or not to let our kids participate.  "I was totally naive about it,” Dr. Powers told ESPN The Magazine.  “I thought people would see the data and say, ‘This is awesome. No one has ever looked at it this way.’”  Instead, it seemed to explicitly point out the sad truth about football: that there may not be a way to make a violent game safe.
Imagine building a home on a tiny island in the middle of the most common area in the world to be affected by hurricanes.  Even if you constructed the sturdiest house on the planet, why would you voluntarily build it in a place where you knew – for a fact – that it was going to be subjected to high winds and flying debris for four months per year?  Is not football the equivalent for the human body?  Is it logical to subjective oneself to a game so intrinsically brutal (especially for kids)?
Of course, repetitive trauma during the first ten years of life is very common, extending beyond the realm of youth football.  Though a study was recently released suggesting that 1 in 30 pee wee football players would have at least one concussion per season, another study stated that bicycle accidents were twice as likely as football to cause concussions. 
The scope of this discussion needs to expand even further.  In many cases when we are young, symptoms that result from trauma do not immediately set in; oftentimes, traumas start a domino effect, which quietly takes its toll and produces the gradual onset of symptoms long after the fact.  Noticeable, subjective complaints like pain or Migraines or numbness may not happen, for instance, until a year (or many years) after an incident, and most doctors do not make the connection to trauma at that point.  To this day, concussions are a microcosm of a common problem in modern healthcare that only associates symptoms with trauma when the proximity of it can be tied to immediate effects. 
Knowing of a concussion and its detrimental effects is only half the battle.  Proper concussion detection should stimulate the advancement of education toward how to appropriately help the concussed heal and recover.  One of the most overlooked aspects of repetitive trauma is its affect on the upper neck area, where the lower brainstem responsible for regulating your organs, muscles, and tissues resides and where cerebrospinal fluid flows in a loop between the brain and the spinal cord.  The hits, tackles, and falls have a greater impact on the upper neck than any other body part because of its unique, more mobile but less stable structural design.  The head and neck protect your life line.  Helmets do not protect that vital head-neck junction, the misalignment of which can affect the brainstem, decrease the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, and throw off the body’s structural balance. 
Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Jim McMahon, is one of the higher profile concussion victims.  For years, he suffered from debilitating headaches, memory loss, and the early signs of dementia.  Dr. Scot Rosa, an Upper Cervical Chiropractor in New York, corrected McMahon’s upper neck misalignment.  Since then, McMahon noted in a recent article, “I haven’t had any headaches.”  Numerous noteworthy personalities from Montell Williams to Sidney Crosby to Jerry Rice have had the same procedure and achieved similar success.  The correction does not reverse the damage accumulated over decades in cases like McMahon’s, but it can halt the downward spiral and remove one of the major obstacles to concussion recovery.  In kids, however, the chances for full recovery are much greater; the earlier the problem is identified and addressed, the better the odds of getting back to normal. 
Frankly, this is a scary topic.  As fans of the game, are we to ignore the ever more prevalent dangers?  “It's an American pastime, but it's hurting people,” points out Chris Borland’s mother, Zebbie, in the ESPN The Magazine piece.  “I’m conflicted,” adds Borland.  Can we be passionate football fans, simultaneously denounce the sport as too dangerous for our kids to play, but then condone it for other kids?  One thing is certain: we can no longer bury our heads in the sand and pretend that there is no discussion to be had; there is a wide-ranging conversation to be had about ethics, safety, prevention, treatment, etc.  So, enjoy the season, but join the debate too.
Sources: ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Outside The Lines, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, The Deseret News