The Impact Of Psychotherapy On Athletes With CNS Injuries

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Suffering from an injury to your central nervous system or CNS is life-changing. The consequences are even more pronounced when you’re an athlete because of how important sports are to you. After all, physical movement is a big part of your life, whether you play competitively or not.

Unfortunately, most brain and spinal cord damages are irreversible. Doctors, researchers, and scientists are always hard at work finding ways to restore lost functions. But currently, there are no known cures for severe CNS injuries yet. Some regimes can handle mild symptoms and prevent further damage, but that’s the limit of physical therapy for now.

It’s not easy to accept this truth. After all, it carries a lot of weight and implications. And because of that, athletes who suffer from those damages develop psychological concerns. Even if it’s not a complete cure, psychotherapy can help you in your journey to get back up again. It’s not going to be a smooth ride. But with your therapist’s guidance and your perseverance, you can process your situation healthily.

The Mental And Emotional Toll Of CNS Injuries On Athletes

Damage to the brain or spinal cord range from mild and temporary symptoms to severe and permanent effects. To name a few, these include 

  • the loss of sight or sensation, 
  • impaired mental ability, 
  • lack of coordination, 
  • memory loss, and 
  • paralysis. 

And every single one dictates a halt in an athlete’s career or capability to play.

For those who experience severe and permanent effects, it may feel like the end of the world. After all, losing something you’re so accustomed to is already traumatic on its own. But to lose your career or hobby makes the experience even more painful. This experience often causes

  • depression, 
  • anxiety, 
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 
  • a feeling of isolation, or 
  • identity loss.

Those who suffer through mild or temporary symptoms don’t get off scot-free either. CNS injuries still cause damage to some fundamental body functions, no matter how severe they are. Along with depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions, you may also constantly feel stress from the fear of injuring yourself again. In addition, you may develop self-esteem issues, hypervigilance, extreme distress, and aversion toward what caused your injury.

The emotional toll is also substantial when you experience CNS damage. It becomes even heavier when it severely affects your participation in sports. Athletes often go through the five stages of grief when they get injured: 

  1. denial, 
  2. anger, 
  3. bargaining, 
  4. depression, and 
  5. acceptance. 

They don’t necessarily appear in order, and you may jump between them. Generally, athletes go through these stages because of the emotional and mental impact they experience from the trauma.

Moreover, your condition may lead you to develop mood disorders and anger issues. It may also cause you to close off and withdraw or bottle up your feelings of hatred. But either way, the negative effect of CNS injuries on athletes is immense.

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The Role Of Psychotherapy In Getting Back Up

Athletes who suffer from CNS injuries may develop a sense of powerlessness over their situation. Often, they may feel like they’ve lost control and are frustrated by their lack of options. That is an extremely tough spot to be in, especially if you start to think you’re stuck forever. Therapy can help you work your way out of that headspace.

Your therapist will guide you through the process of accepting your situation. They’ll talk to you about your injury, experience, and emotions about those things. It may overwhelm and frustrate you, but it’s a crucial step in your journey toward acceptance. After all, you can’t move forward healthily without coming to terms with your experience.

Along with talking about your injury, they’ll also pay attention to its effects on you. In particular, your therapist will help you address some mental and emotional concerns you may have developed. They’ll also help you acknowledge your emotions and address them. After all, ignoring how you feel will only be detrimental to your journey forward. 

Overwhelming thoughts regarding your injury may engulf your mind and heart. But your therapist can help you sort through them all. They may recommend you join support groups to allow you to connect with others who share the same situation. Activities like this can aid you in shifting your energy toward acceptance and healing.

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Moving Forward With Self-Advocacy

Having brain or spinal cord damage will bring changes to your life. It may be a simple routine change if you have mild and temporary symptoms. It may also be more significant shifts like relearning skills if you suffer from more severe and long-term effects. Sadly, it can also be depending on somebody else for daily tasks. But whatever the changes may be, you need to accept and adapt to them.

New personal needs, interests, and other factors may arise with these adjustments in your life. And to address those, your therapist will introduce you to the concept of self-advocacy. They’ll help you understand yourself, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. In addition, they’ll guide you in discovering and setting realistic personal goals you want to achieve.

Additionally, therapy will help you learn how to express yourself. With that skill, you’ll be able to communicate your wants and needs both to yourself and to other people. All these factors will support you in moving forward healthily toward the next chapter of your life.

To Wrap Up

It’s challenging for athletes to suffer from injuries, especially severe types, like brain and spinal cord damage. And it’s not just about the physical damage. Often, these injuries take a heavy toll on their emotional and mental well-being too.

Most of the time, it’s difficult for an athlete with CNS damage to accept their situation. Not only do these injuries cause physical limitations, but they also entail the loss of a beloved hobby, or sometimes, livelihood. It becomes easy to get stuck feeling helpless and powerless. However, therapy can support you to emerge above that kind of headspace.

Your therapist will help you understand and address both your situation and your feelings about it. They’ll support you in processing those things so that you can come to terms with your new reality. Therapy will guide you in learning how to express yourself, goals, thoughts, and emotions clearly.

It’s not going to be easy, but this is all for you and your well-being. Always remember, your therapist will be right beside you every step of the way.

Technological Developments For Paralyzed SCI Patients

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For so long, spinal cord injury patients have been wallowing in depression and devastation over not being able to walk again, as they know that these injuries are pretty serious and can even be life-threatening. There have only been very limited options for treating or helping patients cope with their disabilities, including anti-inflammatory drugs and spinal decompression. Sadly, these have not addressed the issue of recovering from the injury in terms of mobility and return to function. The neurologic deficits that these SCI patients have incurred have remained, leaving them debilitated.

However, current studies tireless research have been promising, and some technological developments have been introduced, which will help SCI patients realize their dream of returning to function and ultimately be able to walk again.

Source: cellmedicine.com

Stem Cell Therapy

 

These are undifferentiated cells that can change into specific cell types. They are also capable of renewing and multiplying themselves at the same time retaining their ability to transform into other cells. Because of this ability, stem cells are now being studied as to how they can replace nerve cells, as neurons have a limited capacity to regenerate.

Researchers are continually finding the correct chemical equations that will stimulate the stem cells to grow and regenerate like the neurons. They are now doing this by injecting stem cells from the bone marrow and into the cerebrospinal fluid to see if it can stimulate the proteins that are required to grow nerves and proliferate nerve impulses. Results that are currently released are quite promising.

Functional Electrical Stimulation

FES utilizes electrodes that are connected to a computer and attached to the paralyzed or weakened muscles to give bursts of electricity and elicit muscle contraction. In spinal cord injury, this is used to try and regain the function of muscles that are affected below the level of the spinal cord. When this was attempted, SCI patients showed mild to moderate improvement in the muscles of their hands and feet, the return of mild bowel and bladder control, and the return of muscle tone in the respiratory muscles, which enabled the patients to breathe without a ventilator. There were positive results for SCI as well as stroke patients.

Source: spinalcord.com

Neurotherapy Through Virtual Reality

 

Virtual therapy has been revolutionized further to treat spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, patients. Studies have proven that VR can persuade the brain into thinking that it is efficiently functioning and performing the actions being asked to follow in the virtual reality environment. This can cause vertigo in people who do not have any brain abnormalities, but for those with traumatic brain injuries, this inspires the brain to activate neurological pathways that became ‘useless’ following the injury.

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)

The BCI works by evading the damaged nerve cells from the SCI. They are implanted and function to regain control of muscle movement to the patients’ weakened musculature. In SCI patients where cognitive function is unaffected, clinicians have successfully used the signals from the brain to control the BCI. Hand and arm orthotics also use the BCI to produce hand and arm function to once paralyzed extremities. The BCI is among the most important innovations of today, enabling patients to experience partial or complete normalcy after SCI.

Robotic Exoskeletons

Wearing robotic devices has been providing SCI patients the opportunity to be able to walk again. According to researchers, repetition helps the brain and the spinal cord coordinate with each other in reestablishing the lost synapses that were due to the spinal cord injury. These exoskeletons are quite heavy, and they require assistance from therapists or people from home, but patients don’t seem to mind. What’s important for them is the fact that they can walk again. These robotic devices have been seen first in physical therapy but have a very promising future in spinal cord injury.