(Ivanhoe Newswire) - As many as 3.8 million athletes suffer concussions each year in the U.S.. These injuries can cause serious brain damage, and for many, another problem but now there's a new way to relieve the pain.
This is Hollie Byer's first soccer game since suffering her fourth concussion.
The last one caused painful headaches that just wouldn't go away.
"It would go from the back of my neck all the way up to the front of my head," Hollie Byer tells Ivanhoe.
The concussion not only injured Hollie's brain, but it also flattened nerves in the back of her head. When medications didn't relieve the pain, Georgetown plastic surgeon Ivica Ducic suggested surgery to decompress the nerve - essentially "unbuttoning" it.
"The equivalent of unbuttoning a shirt and tie because it's just too tight, and you can't breathe or speak normally," explains Dr. Ducic.
The doctor cuts the muscles that surround the damaged nerve giving it room to expand. This relieves pressure and pain. One study found nearly 85% of patients who underwent this procedure had at least a 50% reduction in symptoms.
"Changing somebody's quality of life is really, really rewarding," Dr. Ducic says to Ivanhoe.
Hollie's headaches were gone the day after her surgery.
"No more pain. It's been great," says Hollie.
Now she's thrilled to be back in the game.
"So excited! I just woke up with a smile on my face, like, I'm playing tonight!" continues Holly.
An athlete who doesn't have to play through the pain any longer.
The doctor says there's no way to know how many concussion patients report having headaches, but he sees at least two each week. He says the problem is under-reported and under recognized. Research suggests if someone has already suffered a concussion, they are one to two times more likely to suffer a second. The doctor believes there are less than 100 surgeons in the country performing the nerve procedure.