Concussions are obviously a well-documented problem and an issue for people, considering all the damage they can cause to the brain.
But believe it or not, the heart also is severely impacted by concussions.
The heart is controlled by our autonomic nervous system, which oversees automatic functions not thought about, such as breathing, digestion and constriction of blood vessels.
The ANS resides in the brain, so when there’s a concussion, disturbances of the ANS filter down to the heart and other organs of the body, which can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.
If the heart is affected, then so are the many functions it performs, such as pumping blood and providing oxygen to the body.
Researchers have found that the variability of the heart is decreased during concussions, with a concussed heart having a range of 60 to 80 beats per minute instead of 50 to 100 beats.
In addition, the ability of the body to adjust blood pressure back to normal is hampered when there is a concussion.
It’s no wonder that when people are healing from concussions, heart rate variability becomes an important tool to measure how well patients are recovering.
Concussion prevention is always a hot topic in the sports world for parents, coaches and athletes, and there are constantly measures in place or up for debate about helmets, mouthguards and visors.
But just as important all that equipment is when it comes to protecting the brain, it’s equally important for heart health, as well.
This story was first published in 2019. It has since been updated.