Research is being conducting on cannabinoids in a lot of areas of health. We know they have profound effects on brain chemistry as they has been shown to help with anxiety and depression issues. Another area of interest is with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). We can also call these injuries concussions. Sadly, there is no consensus on the classification of TBIs, so for the sake of this blog, we will not consider mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs) as such, but will classify them as TBIs. Reason: is any head injury with neurological findings really ‘mild?’ The truth is ‘NO’. No brain injury is mild. Each case must be individually assessed and treated aggressively to avoid further/continual damage.
A bit of digression here… Childhood TBIs are an epidemic. It’s not just football that has a high risk of head injury. Head trauma can occur in many sports and it’s vital to have adequate training to know how to assess and initially ‘treat’ a TBI. At this point, I wish to recommend the TeamSafe(TM) App. for EVERY coach and league ownership/staff. This app. has been created to help educate coaches and others about how to assess and deal with on-the-field injuries. It can be used to provide information to staff on the field so they know if a child has an allergy or other issue. It’s not enough to have a health history locked in a drawer in the back office somewhere of your child’s soccer league. It’s vital that, with permission, your coach(es) know any health condition your child has and how to best help if there is an emergency. It’s also vital for coaches to have on-the-field resources for identifying and properly dealing with head injuries. Please contact your children’s league office and encourage them to look into the benefits of utilizing Teamsafe(TM). he data this app. supplies could save lives and all leagues should be using it.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program! 🙂
The function of this blog is to make you aware that there’s mounting evidence that cannabinoids can help with the recovery of TBIs and concussions. This is very, very important information.
To understand why it’s so important to better be able to help those who experience a TBI, consider half of all traumatic deaths in the USA are due to brain injury. Most head injuries are not treated properly and life expectancy is lowered for those with a history of brain injury. Brain injury can lead to permanent brain damage and loss of quality of life.
Concussions are all too common in the sports world with professional and child athletes alike. As the medical and sports rehabilitative fields look for the best ways to identify TBIs, we need to address what is done to help the brain recover once it is found to be damaged.
A recent review in Frontiers of Pharmacology, by Lesley Schumann and Aron Lichtman, titled ‘Endocannabinoids: A Promising Impact for Traumatic Brain Injury, addresses this topic. The authors’ point is that the Endocannabinoid System (eCB in this study) plays a major role in the events that occur following a brain injury and working with this system can help people recover faster and in a more complete fashion.
For some background, brain trauma begins with a force to the head that creates pain under the point of contact (coup) or on the opposite side (contrecoup). The worst type of brain injury occurs with both types of injury and one being missed. Within minutes, cell death occurs and this can occur for days to months. The damage continues to destroy mitochondrial function and creates free radical damage which leads to further damage. This damage leads to potential disruption of the blood brain barrier (BBB) which leads to secondary brain damage and a likelihood of extracranial damage, including regions such as the lungs (20-25% of people with TBIs have associated lung complications). Of course, lung damage will affect systemic oxygen and further damage the brain…and the cascade of bad events continues…
We have two nasty enzymes, FAAH and MAGL (we’ll stick to the acronyms here), that work to block endocannabinoid activity with CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD, or cannabidiol, works to essentially corrode these enzymes so our body may better enable the endocannabinoids to activate the receptors. By doing so, evidence shows that the blood brain barrier can be protected. The studies covering this were regarding stroke, but the authors conclude that this likely occurs with TBI. We also know that CB1 receptor activity helps with vasodilation, and following TBI, this is essential.
Another important consideration with TBI is loss of memory and learning ability. These impairments can continue for up to 10 years after a TBI. The great thing is that the endocannabinoid system has been shown to have a great influence over memory regulation. Again, the inhibition of FAAH and MAGL by CBD plays a big part in this.
Motor impairments (loss of coordination, ability to play sports, etc…) are also a major part of TBIs. Even 2 years following a brain injury, people can have impairments. As is the case with the other effects of a TBI, our endocannabinoids, Anandamide and 2-AG, have been shown in studies to protect against neurological motor deficiencies. And again, CBD may allow your body to upregulate your endocannabinoid levels, giving your body a better ability to heal from motor impairments due to TBIs.
Inflammation plays a large part in any injury process and TBIs most certainly involve inflammation. CBD lowers inflammation through 4 pathways (activates GPR55, inhibits nucleoside transporter, inhibits sodium channels, and produces increased extracellular adenosine concentrations that directly downgrade inflammation). Needless to say, CBD may have a very direct hand in reducing inflammation. Although CBD has not been shown to have direct effects on reduction of inflammation specifically with TBIs, the inflammation reducing ability is systemic and the authors believe its effect on neuroinflammation is well worth investigating.
All in all, there is great research being conducted to study the effects of cannabinoids (especially CBD) and their ability to help a brain heal following TBIs. Being so little is being done medically to directly address the healing process following a concussion, every bit of quality research should be evaluated. With TBIs, time is a serious factor with healing. If the brain does not get what it needs, permanent damage can occur. We hope this blog has shed a bit of light on how CBD might be able to help you or one you care about following TBI/concussion. There is enough data to highly recommend quality CBD following a TBI.