Sports-Related Head Injuries & Migraines – How Helmets Help and How They Don’t

By Annette GallagherJuly 27, 2016September 30th, 2021No Comments

Sports-related head injuries and migraine pain often go hand-in-hand. Athletic events that involve possible head injuries generally require participants to wear protective head gear.

Helmets are made to protect the skull and brain from blunt force trauma and, for the most part, they accomplish this task. For a helmet to be approved for use in an athletic event, it must pass the necessary requirements put in place by various athletic organizations such as the NCAA.

The Benefits of Wearing a Helmet

Wearing a helmet during a full-contact sport, like football, protects the head and face from damage during a collision. During an athletic event, the force of a hit to an unprotected head could easily break a bone in the face or crack the skull, causing injury to the brain. Helmets are made with an interior cushion to help absorb the strength of the blow and keep the head from bearing the brunt of the contact.

The Helmet’s Achilles’s Heal

Although it has been determined that the helmet has saved many athletes from devastating injuries, it cannot completely protect the brain. When the head is jerked back and forth, the brain continues to go in the original direction until something stops it. This means that it slams against the interior of the skull.

While the helmet protects the outside of the head, it does not entirely protect the brain. Repeated jolts to the head can cause swelling of the brain or minor bleeding that can lead to scar tissue and various degrees of migraine pain.

The Connection between Head Injuries and Migraines

Even with helmets, athletes can run the risk of chronic headaches and migraines. Part of the reason has to do with the constant contact of the brain within the inside of the skull. Even though most of the force is absorbed by the helmet, the brain still moves at the speed of the impact. The only cushion between the brain and the inside of the skull is a thin layer of cerebrospinal fluid that works to slow down the speed at which the brain travels after an impact.

National Headache Institute

At the National Headache Institute, we offer our patients solutions to many of the problems they may face when it comes to migraines or experiencing chronic headache pain. We can help athletes cope with the migraines that are often associated with repeated head injuries and trauma that was received during their years on the field.

We can also offer suggestions for young athletes that will help prevent them from experiencing traumatic head injuries as they compete. Please contact us with any questions you may have.