Contact sports athletes and migraines – Part 2

Sports, Athletes, Migraines, HeadachesLast time we began to examine the different types of migraines that athletes may suffer from and what to do about them. Today we take a closer look at 2 other types of migraines and discuss a solution that is providing hope for migraine sufferers around the world.

Trauma Triggered Migraine

Trauma triggered migraine is typically seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. It represents a complex temporary disturbance of brain function precipitated by a mild blow to the head. The attack may begin with visual disturbance, such as temporary blindness, change in level of consciousness. A severe headache, nausea, and vomiting follow. Symptoms begin 1 to 10 minutes after a blow to the head, but are not triggered by blows to the rest of the body. The attack usually resolves within a few to 24 hours. Rarely, neurologic deficits do not totally clear. These post-traumatic attacks may be mistaken for concussions, contusions, or acute epidural or subdural hematoma.

Trauma triggered migraines have been reported with soccer, football, volleyball, and wrestling. Because of the involvement in contact sports, these headaches are more typical in boys and young men. Except that the trigger is trauma, the presentation is similar to other migraine attacks.

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Post-traumatic migraine

Post-traumatic headache implies a new onset headache after injury. To be directly attributable to the trauma, no precursors for migraine were present prior to the onset of the headache. The assumption is that the trauma caused the headache by altering brain function or structure.

Some patients develop a chronic headache after a seemingly minor blow to the head with a basketball or volleyball. Such headaches may present as migraine, tension type headache, or daily headache with varying degrees of migraine symptomatology.

Williams and Nukada reviewed 29 subjects with post-traumatic headache as a result of head trauma in a contact sport. The trauma was usually minor. Associated symptoms included stiff neck, confusion, and loss of concentration. Some subjects were unable to continue the sport or exercise because of severe headache. The post-traumatic headache was often associated with concussion.  A post-concussion migraine headache has been reported especially with soccer and English football players.

For athletes who are suffering with migraine headaches, the likelihood that trauma created the underlying situation for the migraine to develop is very high.  Head and neck traumas that are common in contact sports, frequently cause a tearing loose of the connective tissue that holds the spine in place. This allows the spine to breakdown and lock into a stressed position. This breakdown, frequently begins in the upper neck. A misalignment of the top 2 bones in the neck causes the shifting of the weight of the head and brain stem pressure to occur leading to dramatic changes in posture, cerebral spinal fluid flow, blood and nerve flow.

This misalignment can be corrected safely, gently and effectively with the upper cervical procedure.

Some estimates suggest 25% of the population has a headache right now!

A comprehensive U.S. study reported that 10 million Americans suffer moderate to severe disability from various forms of headaches. It’s time that people know there is an answer to their headaches other than potentially harmful medications.


  1. Haas D, Pineda G, Lourie H. Juvenile head trauma syndromes and their relationships to migraine. Arch Neurol. 1975;32:727-730.
  2. Haas D, Lourie H. Trauma-triggered migraine: an explanation for common neurological attacks after mild head injury. J Neurosurg. 1988;68:181-188.
  3. Bennett D, Fuenning S, Sullivan G, Weber J. Migraine precipitated by head trauma in athletes. Am J Sports Med. 1980;8(3):202-205.
  4. Solomon S. Posttraumatic migraine. Headache 1998;38:772-778.

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Dr. Craig Lapenski and Dr. Martha Schenk of Advanced Spinal Care, in Graham, Washington are your Graham NUCCA Specialists trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Their upper cervical clinic also serves Puyallup, Tacoma, Olympia, and Sumner. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems, including migraines and other headaches, fibromyalgia, vertigo, neck and back pain, and more. More information can be found on our website at