Concussions and headaches

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Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012 4:11 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

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, there's another painful problem.

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."

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."

The doctor cuts the muscle and tissues that surround the damaged nerve - giving it room to expand. This relieves pressure and pain. One study found nearly 85-percent of patients who underwent this procedure had at least a 50-percent reduction in symptoms. "Changing somebody's quality of life is really, really rewarding."

Hollie's headaches were gone the day after her surgery. "No more pain. It's been great."

Now she's thrilled to be back in the game. 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, he believes the problem is under-reported and under-recognized.

The doctor believes there are less than 100 surgeons in the country performing the nerve procedure that helped get rid of Hollie's headaches.

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