In this profile Noah Volz, a recent graduate of Life Chiropractic College West and a research honors student, talks about his research on patients with concussions. Specifically, he wrote two case studies about the effect of atlas realignment via NUCCA in patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and persistent symptoms.
Research objective: Describe effect of upper cervical chiropractic on athletes with mTBI and persistent concussive symptoms.
The pieces of this project came together slowly. First, my best friend’s son had a concussion playing sports and had to drop out of school. He wore sensory deprivation ear muffs and glasses in order to function. I knew there must be a way to help him. Then I went to The WAVE (Life West’s annual conference) and learned what Dr. Scott Rosa was doing with concussion patients at his clinic (see video). Lastly, Dr. Sean Drake, the first Sports Performance Institute director at Life West, offered me mentorship on treating concussions with chiropractic. When all this came together, I chose to use the upper cervical technique NUCCA for the project. Dr. Drake’s successor, Dr. Scott Lessard, set up the baseline SCAT5 and IMPACT studies on the athletes.
How did this project change the course of your academic learning here at Life West?
I had no idea how difficult writing a research paper would be. It was one of the most challenging things I did at Life West. I feel honored that I get to share my work at the ACA Sports Symposium in Minneapolis, Minn., and will hopefully bring it to ACC-RAC next year. Having completed this process, I think that research like this is vital for students to learn – it is the language that the medical profession uses to determine when and if an intervention works.
What surprising things did you learn from this research?
From the experience I had with my best friend’s kid, I knew that the options for athletes with concussions are limited. I just didn’t know how little can be done for athletes with persistent symptoms. There has been some research in terms of supplementation, but there are only a few other options for these individuals.
How do you hope other students and those in the chiropractic profession can use this?
As this is a case series, it serves as a spring board for others in the profession to explore the possibilities of using chiropractic adjustments for concussion in random controlled trials or other forms of research that can be published in an indexed journal. I hope that other students will be inspired by this research to write up the cases that are close to their heart.
What greater impact do you hope this research will have?
For me personally, this research has already had a huge impact. I have learned so much about concussion and have been given the opportunity to share what I have learned at conferences around the country. This is a huge opportunity for Life West and for me.
What would you like the average person, with or without chiropractic knowledge, to take away from this research?
My hope with the research was always to explore alternative options to the “watch and wait” approach that was used for concussion. We need to shift the conversation around concussion from return to play guidelines to focusing on the long-term health of athletes and to how to minimize the detrimental effects of high impact sports. This intention goes along with the national conversation happening around concussion. It is an honor for me to be a part of this conversation and work with some of the best minds in medicine.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working at Benjamin Chiropractic in downtown Oakland and looking forward to continuing to grow as a health professional with a patient-centered approach.