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The Story Behind O.J. Simpson’s Concussions

A former teammate of O.J. Simpson spoke to me at length about O.J. once he learned what I did to treat concussions.  He said O.J. was a great teammate and a wonderful person during their days together in Buffalo. He also disclosed that O.J. was very vain and self-conscious about, what he felt, was his large head! Because of that, O.J. would let the air out of the pads in his helmet so his head didn’t look any bigger with it on!  Essentially, he was removing the protective elements from his helmet by doing did that.  

In reality, this made each hit to his head even more damaging than it would have been with the proper padding. The damage done to the brain with a normal helmet on is bad, let alone the damage sustained with little or no padding.  I looked back at pictures of O.J. when he was with the Bills. His helmet was, indeed, pressed tightly against his head!

Knowing what I know now, the constant, repeated pounding his head took over the course of several years damaged his brain. It ultimately transformed O.J. into the shell of a person he is today. Understanding the dynamics of a concussion helps to explain why they are a devastating problem.

Cranial Bone Movement and Concussions

Cranial bones move in a very specific, intrinsic pattern.  This normal movement of the cranial bones facilitates the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the brain. CSF moves in and out of the ventricles of the brain and throughout the entire spinal cord.  The movement of CSF is critical in the removal of the metabolic waste products produced in the central nervous system.  

A concussion reduces the normal movement of the cranial bones, which slows down the flow of the CSF.  Thus, the waste products remain in the central nervous system longer than they should, killing healthy brain cells. The longer the cranial bone movement is reduced, the more damage to the brain occurs.

Think about the potential damage of the brain and the symptoms one can experience as the brain deteriorates. The brain’s neurological impact is huge to a person. There is no way to predict which part of the brain an individual will experience damage after a concussion. Will the damage be to the cognitive function which affects learning and memory? Will the damage occur in the part of the brain which controls motor function?

Memory Problems from Concussions

Many times a person who has suffered a concussion will start to have memory problems. Over the years, I have had many retired professional football players complain that their memory is a huge issue.  One man shared that when he leaves his home he often gets lost, and has a hard time finding his way back. Some doctors have attempted to explain this away as early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The difference is that these individuals are experiencing forgetfulness very early, beginning in their mid-40’s to early 50’s.  I had one doctor try to maintain that he has patients who have early onset dementia who didn’t play football. Looking into the history of these patients, they all had experienced head trauma in their past!

Depression Stems From Concussions

Another issue these players experience is anger or depression. This is due to the deterioration of the right brain, also known as the “emotional” side of the brain. It is well documented that depression is extremely common with concussion patients. Prescribing anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicines are the standard for treating these victims.  Unfortunately, while these medications feel like a solution, they don’t, and can’t “fix” the main problem, they only treat the symptoms.

I have asked all my concussion patients if they had their depression before their injury- the vast majority didn’t! So, it was the concussion and the ongoing deterioration of the brain which was the cause of their depression. One of my patients who has her Ph.D was highly offended when her doctor couldn’t help her symptoms she experienced as the result of her concussion, so he referred her to a psychiatrist. She had never had any of these issues before her injury, so she knew her issues were a direct result of the physical trauma to her head. Yet, when she didn’t respond to his “traditional” treatment of “rest,” he said she was “depressed.”

This phenomenon explains why older athletes, who have never re-established their normal cranial bone movement after suffering from a concussion, experience serious brain issues. These victims experience depression, loss of memory, coordination issues, and in severe cases, suicide, (such as in the case of Junior Seau and Mike Webster).

Concussion Treatment and Solutions

The good news for concussion victims is that the damage is able to be rehabilitated. With the help of technology, we have been utilizing treatment methods in my practice, since 1986.  Our treatments work. One of the most common comments I hear from parents after we start treating a child who has had a concussion is that they “have their child back.” They say their personality has returned to the way they were before their concussion.

O.J. Simpson could have prevented a lot of cranial damage had he used his helmet the proper way. Even still, it is very likely that he would have suffered a large number of brain injuries, as do most professional football players. If he also had the opportunity to receive cranial movement therapy, his mental state most likely would be better than it is, today.

Photo Credit: SportingNews.com

Maria CaligiuriThe Story Behind O.J. Simpson’s Concussions