Dwyane Wade has an issue with migraine headaches. It hasn’t stopped his performance in the NBA playoffs, but it got me thinking about athletes and migraines. You typically don’t hear about athletes having migraine issues due to the bravado involved in sports.
“Oh, you just have a headache.”
Chronic migraines are serious issues and they have repercussions for athletes. Approximately, 12% of the United States suffers from regular migraines and it has only been since 2006 that chronic migraines were accepted as a real diagnosis. If you suffer more than 15 headaches a month, you may have chronic migraines.
People who suffer chronic migraines have headaches most of the time. They are an almost daily occurrence and can be crippling. Cognitive abilities are impaired, as is functional performance.
There are two scales to determine how severe the chronic migraine affects a person:
1) Silberstein Lipton – The original scale that included only the amount and frequency of headaches.
2) ICHD-2 criteria – The revised scale that includes not only amount and frequency, but also effects of the migraine headaches. The effects can be nausea, vomiting, photophobia and phonophobia. Photo means light and phono means sound, so these sufferers will have sensitivity to light and/or sound.
Athletes suffering from chronic migraines should focus on the following:
1) Finding triggers – Are there specific activities, foods or situations that lead to a migraine attack. Don’t skip the emotional triggers such as family strife, spouse arguments or children demands. The emotional triggers are sometimes stronger than the natural triggers such as allergies, change of weather and more.
2) Dealing with the pain – There are a number of drugs that help chronic migraine sufferers including the top two: Sodium valproate and Topiramate. Interestingly, both drugs are antiepiliptic drugs. If you are obligated to perform a drug test in pursuit of your athletics, these are two drugs you should declare. Keep in mind, both of these drugs are used off label for chronic migraine treatment, so a doctor should always be consulted.
3) Maximizing non-migraine time – Although the headaches occur on a regular basis, training time should be scheduled around the predictable patterns.
Migraines and chronic migraine conditions are often misdiagnosed or under diagnosed. It is important you are your own best advocate for dealing with your doctor and getting the treatment you feel you need.
This is a fantastic video on chronic migraines. Seriously, it is very good: