Local brain injury experts weigh in on Mahomes, concussion symptoms and possible road to recovery

Kansas City Chiefs
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs fans held their collective breath on Sunday.

The heat of an NFL playoff game grew even more tense when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes wobbled off the field with an injury.

The Chiefs medical staff hasn’t confirmed that Mahomes has a concussion, but Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said Mahomes has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol. Brain injury professionals within Chiefs Kingdom said Sunday’s injury looked familiar to them.

A study from the National Institute of Health states 37% of all athletes, including amateurs, will experience a concussion at some point.

Lisa Poehlman, a retired nurse who lives in Kansas City’s Northland, knows how Mahomes might be feeling.

Poehlman said she suffered a concussion in 2013 while flying from Kansas City to Chicago, when an object fell from the commercial airplane’s overhead storage bin and hit her in the head. Poehlman’s photos from eight years ago show a large lump near her left eye socket.

“I don’t remember my accident at all. I don’t remember what happened,” Poehlman said. “I couldn’t smell. I couldn’t taste anything. A horrible headache. Profound confusion. Loss of appetite. I lost 30 pounds.”

Brain injury experts state that every concussion shows different symptoms. Common symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and irritability. Post-concussion syndrome can require long-term vestibular therapy and time allotted for physical recovery.

Dr. Michael Moncure, a concussion specialist and trauma surgeon at Truman Medical Center, is Poehlman’s doctor. Moncure has been working with concussion patients for 26 years. He cited medical studies that show most NFL quarterbacks can return from concussion protocol within seven days if they pass mandatory examinations.

“The most encouraging thing that came out last night was that (Mahomes) feels fine now,” Moncure said Monday. “When we saw him run off the field to the locker room, that looked good. When you are receiving tweets from him, and he and the coaching staff and the organization are telling you that he feels fine at this point, those are all good signs.”

Dr. Sarah Gibbons, a neurologist with St. Luke’s Health System, said recovery from a concussion requires a unique blend of rest and vestibular therapy, which focuses on restoration of visual function and physical balance. Neither she nor Moncure are involved in Mahomes’ case.

Gibbons applauded the NFL’s efforts in recent years to make football safer and to ensure athletes are examined by independent physicians with no ties to the league or any of its 30 teams.

“It’s a good idea to have someone outside the bubble to oversee players,” Gibbons said. “If you experience symptoms, it’s important to seek care early so you can begin therapy.”

Moncure said he’s optimistic that Mahomes could be available for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against Buffalo. On the other hand, Poehlman said her concussion symptoms required nearly a year’s worth of therapy and led to her early retirement from her job.

“You’re just kind of bouncing around in the world, and it’s really hard to feel where you are,” Poehlman said. “I can’t imagine trying to play a football game.”

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