While listening to sports talk radio the other day, the topic of Sidney Crosby came up. For those who don’t know, Sid the Kid has been one of the best, if not the best, player in professional hockey since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins into the NHL in 2005. He won a gold metal for Canada at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Stanley Cup in 2009. However, no one is talking about Sid’s accomplishments right now. His career is in jeopardy due to a concussion he sustained back in the 2010-2011 season that has kept him sidelined for all but a few games where he tried to come back only to have his symptoms return.

Anyone who has played hockey or any other physical sport has at least seen someone get a concussion. It doesn’t take much. Football has tried to make safer helmets and create rules that severely penalize hits to the head. Prevention is noble but if you ask anyone who has played sports, it is going to happen no matter how cautious. The more important question to me is how to treat it when it does happen. Time and avoiding another blow to the head are the recommendations these days. I think there is more we can do.

The brain, by all accounts, is a slow healer. As a pattern, tissue that has a limited or controlled blood supply is difficult to heal. Blood and brain tissue has to be controlled because blood is very toxic to nervous tissue hence the poor healing capacity. The reason blood is important in healing is because oxygen is a necessary component to healing. Oxygen is needed to burn the fuel in the form of glucose to give the cells energy to repair itself.

If more oxygen to the brain is the solution, then we have an effective remedy: hyperbaric therapy. In a hyperbaric chamber pressure is used to help oxygen saturate into the liquids of the body and can therefore easily cross the cell membrane and be used by the cell. In the brain this is especially effective because it also allows oxygen to cross the blood/brain barrier that is an extra protection for the brain and other nerves. More oxygen will allow the brain to actually heal.

Now, I realize that most people have not have ever heard of a hyperbaric chamber let alone know where to find one. Doesn’t it make sense, though, with all of the concern about concussions that we push for a treatment with a track record of success?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

I took the time today to spend an hour in my hyperbaric oxygen tank. I have decided to take at least one hour a week to decompress (or really compress if you are being literal). The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are vast. Ultimately though, it comes down to a very simple concept.

If you think of the cells of our bodies like little engines the analogy is easy to grasp. There are two major things that make the engine work. It needs fuel and it needs oxygen to burn the fuel. The more oxygen the quicker it will burn the fuel.

We have plenty of fuel in our bodies but we have a limited amount of oxygen that we can take into the cells of our bodies. The reason for the shortage is because oxygen gets into the cells by piggybacking on red blood cells. We have a limited number of red blood cells in the body at any given time. (If you want more spend some time in high altitude where the body will adapt to the decreased available oxygen in the air by creating more red blood cells). Red blood cells also have a certain number of oxygen molecules that can bind to it. Oxygen binds to red blood cells in the lungs and then oxygen is transported to the cells of the body.

This is where hyperbaric comes in. If you increase pressure you can dissolve oxygen into liquid. So, all of the oxygen in the air around us and in the body, but not in the cells, can now be transferred into the cells. More oxygen in the cells equals faster burning motors.

So what? When cells burn quicker we observe things we wouldn’t normally see. For example, in children with Autism new brain patterns develop. In stroke victims, oxygen can reach the damaged area and start the healing process. Athletes use is it to recover from the stress, strain and injuries inflicted upon them. The list of benefits goes on. We have seen success with MS, stroke, autisms, chronic fatigue, injury recovery, recovery from chemotherapy, lyme disease, cerebral palsy, wound that wouldn’t heal, and so much more.