A non-invasive treatment can offer relief to people suffering from concussions, including NFL players like former quarterback Jim McMahon.
McMahon won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears after the 1985 season but suffered multiple undiagnosed concussions for his success.
“I think I was around 50 when I started getting bad headaches, I didn’t want to do anything,” he said. “All I wanted to do was lay down. I spent weeks and months laying in my bed in a dark room looking at the ceiling fan. I had no desire to do anything. My head was hurting so bad I just wanted to sleep.”
At times, he thought about suicide, but two doctors who read about his struggle reached out and introduced him to chiropractor Dr. Scott Rosa, who specializes in the vertebrae connecting the skull and the spine.
Rosa told McMahon his vertebrae had been knocked out of alignment, blocking the flow of cerebral spinal fluid.
“He said it was all in your head, and it really was all in my head,” McMahon said. “All the fluid was stuck up there, and once these guys figured out a way to get it moving properly again, I can function fairly normally.”
Rosa treated him with image-guided atlas treatment.
“It is where we utilize the extensive MRI sequences that we take to understand the mal-alignments that occur at the base of the skull and into the neck, and they help us go ahead and know exactly where the shifting of the vertebrae might have gone to,” Rosa said.
Precisely targeting the correction can take some time, but the actual treatment takes just a few pain-free seconds.
“The first treatment when he first did it, it literally felt like the toilet flushed in my head,” McMahon said. “I could actually feel the stuff leaving my head.”
Another patient, 21-year-old former soccer player Alicia Jensen, has been in pain for the past four years.
“My head aches every single day, a lot of neck pain every single day, dizziness, blurred vision,” she said. “I’ve been told I’m very lucky to be alive.”
But each treatment offers immediate relief.
“I go in there with a crazy headache and I leave feeling so much better,” she said.
Rosa believes other athletes in contact sports should be evaluated before they are injured.
“I think that screening is a very simplistic way of giving us an opportunity to look at their necks to see if we find any biomechanical aberrances or weaknesses that might constitute an increased risk for injury,” he said.
Depending on the patient's symptoms, additional treatments may be necessary.
The initial MRI imaging can be costly -- $6,000 to $7,000 -- and getting health insurance coverage is challenging.