Former NFL Quarterback Shares How He Protects His Mind Well being


Yearly, 1.6 million to three.8 million instances of delicate traumatic mind damage (MTBI) associated to sports activities are estimated to happen within the U.S.1 Concussions are one instance of an MTBI. They happen when a bump, blow or jolt to the pinnacle or physique causes the pinnacle and mind to maneuver forwards and backwards quickly. The jarring motion can stretch and harm mind cells whereas additionally resulting in chemical adjustments within the mind.2

The Nationwide Soccer League is well-acquainted with concussions, because it’s estimated that 0.41 of them happen throughout each NFL recreation.3 For these not concerned in aggressive sports activities, concussions could happen resulting from falls,4 automotive accidents or different accidents.

As the hazards of concussions, particularly repeated ones, have turn into well-known, analysis into their causes and results has elevated, with one examine exhibiting that the majority concussions and repetitive head impression exposures amongst faculty soccer gamers happen not throughout video games however throughout preseason coaching and soccer practices.5

This has prompted requires prevention methods and schooling, as concussions have severe implications for long-term neurological well being. Jay Cutler, a former quarterback who performed within the NFL for 12 seasons with the Bears, Broncos and Dolphins, is now going through the repercussions of repeated concussions; he’s sharing the pure choices he’s turning to for hope of restoration.6

Repeated Concussions Can Result in Mind Illness

Power traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive mind illness that was as soon as believed to have an effect on primarily boxers however is now recognized to happen in all varieties of contact sports activities and the navy7 — any exercise that results in repeated concussions places you in danger. In line with the Concussion Legacy Basis:8

“In CTE, a protein referred to as tau misfolds and malfunctions, causes different proteins to misfold, and units off a series response the place this malfunctioning tau slowly spreads all through the mind, killing mind cells. CTE has been seen in individuals as younger as 17, however signs don’t usually start showing till years after the onset of head impacts.”

Early signs, which can start as early because the affected person’s 20s, embrace temper and habits adjustments, progressing to:9

Issues with impulse management


Temper swings




Issues with sleep

Quick-term reminiscence loss


Impaired judgment


CTE doesn’t sometimes happen after one or two concussions. Most people affected have had a whole lot or 1000’s of blows to the pinnacle, together with not solely concussions but in addition many lesser impacts that don’t trigger “full-blown” concussions, however which frequently are the largest issue.10 Cutler suits the outline of these most liable to CTE and has acknowledged, “CTE, it’s coming in some unspecified time in the future.”11

“I’ve broken sufficient issues and mind components and coronary heart and all the things in my life, if I make it to 80, or something after that, I’ll be comfortable,” he mentioned … “I might say positively my reminiscence isn’t the identical because it was 5 years in the past.

The quantity of concussions I’ve had are in all probability within the double digits. It’s gonna catch as much as me in some unspecified time in the future. I’m simply attempting to delay it as a lot as potential.”

Omega-3s and Low Sugar for Mind Well being

Realizing his threat of mind illness is excessive, Cutler is being proactive in doing all he can to guard his mind well being. “Attempting to chop sugar. Heavy quantities of fish oil have been tied to well being within the mind,” Cutler mentioned.12 Certainly, day by day sugar consumption impairs spatial reminiscence and inhibits neurogenesis within the hippocampus, a mind space concerned in studying and reminiscence processes.13

Animal research have additionally proven {that a} high-sugar food plan tends to change inhibitory neurons within the prefrontal cortex,14 the place decision-making and impulse management are centered. Except for impaired impulse management and the shortcoming to delay gratification, this alteration may additionally enhance the danger of psychological well being issues.15

So, slicing down on sugar is a clever transfer on Cutler’s half. Even if you happen to’re in any other case wholesome, with out Kind 2 diabetes or glucose tolerance, consuming an excessive amount of sugar, and the associated increased blood sugar ranges it causes, has a adverse impact on cognition, probably by inflicting structural adjustments in areas of the mind related to studying.16

Including in omega-3 fats can also be clever, as omega-3 fat are very important to your mind. A examine within the journal Neurology discovered “older girls with the best ranges of omega-3 fat … had higher preservation of their mind as they aged than these with the bottom ranges, which could imply they’d keep higher mind perform for an additional 12 months or two.”17

As well as, older adults with reminiscence complaints who consumed docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alone or together with eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), had improved reminiscence.18 EPA and DHA are two varieties of omega-3 fatty acids. Low DHA ranges have been linked to reminiscence loss and Alzheimer’s illness, and a few research recommend degenerative mind illnesses could doubtlessly be reversible with enough DHA.19,20

By way of mind trauma, particularly, DHA could assist the mind resist oxidative stress whereas preserving membrane homeostasis and performance after damage. College of California at Los Angeles researchers recommended that dietary DHA could “counteract broad and basic features of TBI [traumatic brain injury] pathology that will translate into preserved cognitive capability.”21 As well as, omega-3 fat could also be helpful for concussions by:22

  • Lowering organic markers of mind damage and mobile apoptosis
  • Defending in opposition to lowered plasticity of neurons and impaired studying when used previous to a concussion
  • Sustaining genomic stability and mobile homeostasis

Whereas Cutler talked about fish oil, the perfect sources for EPA and DHA embrace cold-water fatty fish, like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies. If you don’t eat these fish regularly, contemplate taking a krill oil complement. You’ll be able to be taught extra about why krill oil is preferable to fish oil within the infographic under.

krill oil vs fish oil

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Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) for Mind Damage

Cutler can also be utilizing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) to assist protect his mind well being — one other stable choice. NAD is a crucial signaling molecule23 that’s additionally believed to play an vital function in longevity. That is partly resulting from its function as a necessary substrate for sirtuins,24 that are enzymes associated to wholesome getting older, in addition to its function in DNA restore.

NAD modulates power manufacturing and plenty of enzymes and in so doing controls a whole lot of processes in your physique together with the survival of cells and power metabolism. NAD is influenced every day by what you eat, train ranges and extra, and in addition declines with age, resulting in adjustments in metabolism and an elevated threat of illness.25

NAD depletion is widespread in instances of neurodegeneration and concussions.26 In a mouse examine, intracortical administration of nicotinamide riboside (NR), a precursor to NAD, helped shield in opposition to central mind damage.27 Cutler mentioned:28

“I’m doing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) remedy. I’m doing it by IVs now. NAD is in all of the cells in your physique, the mitochondria, the power that pushes every cell to perform.

As you grow old, you lose NAD. So I’m doing NAD remedy, which, at a core stage, helps all the things in your physique. I’ve observed that that’s positively helped me. Something I can do lately, I’m attempting to get entangled in.”

A examine is underway in faculty soccer gamers to find out if NR supplementation (750 milligrams a day for 12 weeks) impacts the degrees of NAD within the mind.29 If the outcomes are favorable, it might pave the way in which for NR for use as a preventive instrument for managing sports-related concussion and TBI.30

Concussions Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Even if you happen to’re not knowledgeable athlete, the repercussions of a concussion will be important. Many individuals don’t search medical consideration after falls or different blows to the pinnacle, but it surely’s vital to be looking out for concussion signs, which might final for days to months:31

Unable to recall occasions previous to or after a success or fall

Seems dazed or shocked

Forgets an instruction, is confused about an task or place, or is not sure of the sport, rating, or opponent

Strikes clumsily

Solutions questions slowly

Loses consciousness (even briefly)

Exhibits temper, habits, or persona adjustments

Headache or “stress” in head

Nausea or vomiting

Stability issues or dizziness, or double or blurry imaginative and prescient

Bothered by mild or noise

Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy

Confusion, or focus or reminiscence downside

Feeling off or “not proper”

Since further head accidents after a concussion can result in important damage, keep away from actions that will additional injure your mind. Kids and teenagers, for example, mustn’t return to sports activities till the concussion is absolutely healed. You’ll want to get sufficient sleep within the aftermath and keep away from strenuous bodily or psychological exercise. You might must take extra frequent breaks throughout work or education.32

Extra Pure Methods for Concussions

Should you’ve had a concussion or know somebody who does, “The Concussion Restore Guide: A Sensible Information to Recovering From Traumatic Mind Accidents” by Dr. Dan Engle, board-certified in psychiatry and neurology, could assist. Amongst his prime methods for repairing neurological perform in case of injury like a concussion are:

Flotation remedy, which induces sensory deprivation; with out environmental stimuli, your mind has extra power to place towards recuperation

Omega-3 fat

Vitamin D

Melatonin, notably if you happen to’re having points with sleep


Pulsed electromagnetic area remedy

Transcranial direct present stimulation


Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT), which entails publicity to high-pressure oxygen at completely different concentrations inside a stress chamber, has additionally proven promise for enhancing mind damage33 and different neurological situations.34 Traumatic mind damage is one in all solely 15 situations for which U.S. insurance coverage corporations can pay for HBOT.35

In case your concussion signs are extreme or persistent, it is best to search medical help, and needless to say your mind should still be recovering for months and even years following a concussion.36 Due to this, methods to optimize your brain health in each the quick and long run will likely be helpful.