Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a broad term that includes any injury to the brain. A TBI can happen to anyone in a number of different situations. These range from (and are not limited to) car accidents and sports injuries (e.g. football, cycling, boxing) to military engagements (e.g. IED – Improvised Explosive Device – blasts). A TBI can happen to someone wearing a helmet and a seatbelt. Since the brain is so complex, injury to it can have varying effects including:
These injuries are very difficult to treat and commonly become chronic, with patients suffering from symptoms for the rest of their lives.
More than 1.6 million TBIs occur every year in the United States alone. About 300,000 of these are sports related. For high school students and young adults, sports are second only to car accidents as the leading cause of TBIs and they are on the rise[6,11]. This alarming fact underscores the need for a successful TBI treatment.
Out of all Traumatic Brain Injuries, permanent disability occurs in 10% of mild injuries (i.e. concussions), 66% of moderate injuries, and 100% of severe injuries. Part of the issue with chronic symptoms (e.g. cognitive impairment) is that there are not many successful treatment options, so patients suffer long past (years to decades) the initial injury event. Usually, the best treatment is playing the “waiting-game”, a patient just waits until their symptoms get better. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Cognitive Rehabilitation has shown some efficacy. There are also pharmaceutical treatments for TBI (steroids and others), but these generally don’t have any significant effects, although they may make a patient temporarily feel better. Surgical interventions can be prescribed in the most serious of cases. However, the outcomes from these options leave much to be desired. Many have serious side effects which either prevent patients from seeking them or the treatments create other problems. There is a pressing need for a treatment solution that can help TBI patients with no side effects.
Case studies have shown that when Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) is applied to the head of TBI patient, their cognition is improved[10,11]. These folks do better on neuropsychological tests (e.g. memory, executive function) after PBMT, even when having suffered for years with chronic TBI syndromes[9,10,11]. PBMT has helped folks with TBI sleep better and report better social, interpersonal and professional interactions with friends, family, and colleagues[10,11]. PBMT can be used at home, or in a wellness-clinic setting, due to its non-invasive nature and no reported side effects.
Recently, retired football players with decades-long chronic TBI symptoms, notably documented histories of cognitive decline, have demonstrated improvement in cognitive test scores, depression scores, and emotional control scores after PBMT. These athletes’ brains are at high risk for damage due to the repetitive impacts they receive.
Although PBMT is relatively old (50 years), only recently has it been put into practice to help TBI patients. Most studies have focused on chronic TBI, but laboratory evidence tells us that treating early and treating often is the most helpful.
Briefly, PBMT works by shining light in the red and near-infrared wavelengths on the body (in this case the head). This results in decreased oxidative stress, decreased inflammation, increased blood flow, and increased healing. It works in conjunction with the body’s natural energy generation and healing systems, creating more energy in the body. It also has protective effects for healthy cells. For a deeper dive please see our evidence-based article: What is Photobiomodulation Therapy (PMBT)?
Thanks for reading and do reach out to us if you have any questions, we love talking science!