Approach, Tools & Services

SPORTS NEUROLOGY: APPROACH, TOOLS and SERVICES

Your brain can make you better

Most would agree that those individuals with the highest capacity for memory, focus, and concentration tend to perform best in academic and professional environments. In fact, in school we used to call those individuals “brainiacs”. There was something about their brains that made them better. Sports and athletics were considered…well, different. Physical attributes seemed to predict success. While sports medicine and performance had traditionally been associated with cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness for decades, new information has developed, and approaches have evolved. Yes, Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Medicine specialists have contributed greatly to the development of best practices in treating injury, preventing injury, and improving function. And the development of Peak Performance programs have further advanced these foundational principles. But state of the art approaches are uncovering a significant concept – At every level of participation, Neurological function separates the average from above average and the good from the great far more than physical and musculoskeletal function. Sports Neurology is a new paradigm in Sports Medicine, poised to revolutionize performance. Consider the following skills and performance characteristics – all of which significantly improve and optimize sports performance and all of which are Neurological in nature:

  • Vision
  • Balance
  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • Reaction and Prediction
  • Speed of Mental Processing
  • Control of Adrenaline
  • Resilience

Whether an individual is a youth, high school, collegiate, elite, or professional athlete, those with the most organized brains and highest level of neurological functioning in these areas, will be the best and most productive at their level of participation. There are typically minimal differences in cardiovascular fitness, strength, and speed (with occasional outliers) within a specific level of participation. And excelling in these areas won’t matter nearly as much if the Neurological skills and performance characteristics are sub-optimal.

As with Orthopaedic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, lessons learned in the evaluation and treatment of athletes can be extrapolated and applied to non-athlete populations. Youth, adolescent, young-adult, middle-aged and elderly individuals have long benefited from improved approaches to treating bone and joint disorders, arthritis, and painful spinal conditions as a result of advances in treating athletes through things like physical therapy, biomechanics research, and arthroscopic surgery. Likewise, lessons learned in the evaluation and training of the brain and nervous system in athletes is beginning to pay dividends in other populations and contribute greatly to improved neurological function and quality of life across the lifespan. What is increasingly obvious is that your healthiest brain is your best path to success (athletic, academic, professional, and quality of life).

Our approach is unique and effective

There are two foundational principles that inform our approach to Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine:

  • Neuroplasticity: The ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections. Especially in response to learning or experience or following injury.
  • Neuromodulation: The alteration of nerve activity through targeted delivery of a stimulus, such as electrical stimulation or chemical agents, to specific neurological sites in the body.

There has been a paradigm shift in our understanding of Brain and Nervous System function. In the old days, it was thought that these attributes were fixed. If you were lucky, you were born with great vision and balance. Or you were born “smart”, or “coordinated”. If not, it was thought that you needed to find and focus on your strengths and compensate for the shortcomings. Likewise, after an injury to the brain or nervous system the focus was on teaching individuals to live with their “new normal” – again, primarily through compensation techniques. However, the concept and promise of Neuroplasticity assures us that the brain and nervous system has the ability to reorganize synaptic connections. And that learning activities assist in reorganization. Essentially, Neuroplasticity shows us that the brain can be trained. This may seem to be a simple statement. But the concept has revolutionized our approach to sports, academic, professional, and quality of life performance.

Just as exciting is the revolution in Neuromodulation that is currently taking place. By stimulating the brain and nervous system in certain ways, we can turn up, turn down, and/or turn off electrical signals and affect sensory, motor, cognitive, and even behavioral function. Neuromodulation shows us that we have equalizer-like control over certain Brain and Nervous System activity. It’s early and there’s lots to learn. But this is revolutionizing our approach to Neurological, Psychological, Psychiatric, Behavioral, and Cognitive disorders as well as sports, academic, professional development/performance. Our approach to Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine is grounded in these principles, which are the most critical and groundbreaking to come along in generations.

We begin engagement with new patients and clients with an expert assessment. This includes a history, physical examination, record review, and discussion regarding goals and desired outcomes. Next, we attempt to educate our patients and clients in a meaningful way. By education, we mean meaningful knowledge transfer with an emphasis on gaining the buy-in needed to optimize our outcomes. We know that knowledge and insight have physiological benefits. Neurologically and physiologically, expectation has real, physical effects on response to treatment. In some cases, our focus is on introducing new language, constructs, and principles in ways that our patients and clients understand. In other cases, we must begin with cognitive restructuring – literally “unwinding” our patient’s and client’s pre-existing and potentially misguided understanding and expectations, then rebuilding with sound and accurate foundational principles. We know this step is crucial to optimizing outcome.

Next, we institute appropriate testing and assessments, aimed at evaluating Neurological anatomy and function. These may include combinations of physical examination features, diagnostic imaging, electrodiagnostic tests, or functional tests. We’re able to accomplish the great majority of our assessments in-house (within the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine), or within our Kerlan-Jobe/Cedars-Sinai network. The obvious benefits are related to the quality of assessment and in negating the need for outside referrals and cumbersome issues related to obtaining test results or communicating with outside practitioners.

Finally, we employ state of the art treatments. Our goals are less dependent on pills to “cover” symptoms or compensatory strategies to “deal with” dysfunction. Rather, we search for opportunities to intervene using Neuroplasticity and/or Neuromodulation techniques. Our medical interventions, rehabilitation and therapy approaches depend on our expertise with the Brain and Nervous System. Our ultimate goal is to leverage our expertise and access to athletes and sports-related performance to optimize Neurological Health across the lifespan.

We have a comprehensive menu and assortment of tools and services available to achieve our goals. In addition to the expert application of traditional approaches (medications, injections, and physical therapies), the following tools and services are offered to optimize performance and quality of life for our patients and clients:

ABOVE THE NECK AND BRAIN TRAINING

ADAPTIVE CONDITIONING POD

CONCUSSION MANAGEMENT AND REHABILITATION

CRYOABLATION

EDUCATION AS MEDICINE

HF-10 SPINAL CORD STIMULATION FOR PAIN

MeRTâ„  THERAPY FOR ATHLETES

NEUROLOGICAL INJECTIONS

NEUROMODULATION TECHNIQUES FOR PAIN

PAIN MANAGEMENT

QUANTITATIVE ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPHY AND BRAINWAVE NETWORK ACTIVATION

SLEEP HEALTH

SPORTS/PAIN PSYCHOLOGY AND BEHAVIORAL THERAPIES

TENSIOMYOGRAPHY ASSESSMENTS

TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION

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