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Business partnering with WSU, Weber School District to treat athlete concussions

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Apr 21, 2023

Matt Herp, Standard-Examiner file photo

Weber State's Stefan Cantwell (11) runs the ball during the first half before being tackled by Southern Utah's Chinedu Ahanonu (35) on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden. The tackle included non-targeting, helmet-to-helmet contact and Cantwell later left the game with concussion-like symptoms.

OGDEN -- During a basketball game at Snowcrest Junior High School in Eden, Austin Summers turned to grab the ball and collided with another player. She fell to the ground head first and blacked out.

The fall caused a concussion in the 14-year-old, followed by daily headaches and severe depression.

"She could not focus in school at all without really struggling in every aspect," said Kristin Summers, Austin's mother.

Her 17-year-old son, Stetson, also suffered from multiple concussions brought on by wrestling and dirt biking. He too ended up suffering from severe anxiety and depression.

"We had a very hard time keeping him focused at school," Kristin Summers said. "He was a very happy kid before the concussions and then he just had no desire for life and wouldn't come out of his room."

If that wasn't enough, her 11 year-old son, Cayden, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a boating incident and ended up suffering from severe anxiety.

"We tried medication and other things for all of them," Summers said. "Then one night my daughter was catering a wedding and Laura Warburton walked up to her and said she noticed something was off with her. She told us she thought she could help."

Warburton and her son, Chase, are the proprietors of The Wellness Center in South Ogden and Huntsville. The center offers red light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation. Patients lay inside a machine called a ReGen Pod while being exposed to low-level wavelengths of red light, which Warburton said can have a biochemical effect on the body's cells, and in turn help reduce inflammation, pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD and a whole gamut of problems.

Summers said the therapy worked wonders for all three of her children.

"It was pretty amazing to watch them after just the first session," she said. "With Austin, after five sessions, we were able to stop the medications she was on and we noticed an improvement in her grades and her socialization with family and friends."

Both of her sons also improved significantly after just a few sessions and were able to go back to their normal activities.

Warburton discovered red light therapy after seeing an ad on Facebook. She tried it herself and says she saw a dramatic change in her own health. As she researched it further, she found the therapy claimed to be very beneficial for those suffering from concussions and post-concussion syndrome. Her own daughter, Hannah, suffered a series of concussions that led to anxiety and depression. Sadly, she completed suicide in 2014, which led Warburton on a journey to help others suffering from concussions and suicidal ideation that can follow.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports and recreational concussions occur in the United States each year. Ten percent of all contact sport athletes sustain concussions yearly. Football, soccer and baseball account for most of those injuries.

As more and more people seek help for concussions and the problems that follow, The Wellness Center is donating 30 red light therapy sessions to Weber State University and Weber School District athletes.

"I've seen many people suffer throughout my life, not just working at The Wellness Center," said Chase Warburton, who manages the business. "However, by working here, I see a change in people. I see hope, I see happiness, I see life. I see improvement in people's overall quality of life. I've heard statements such as 'I don't want to die anymore.'"

While Warburton said the center doesn't claim to cure anything, he said he has seen many people find relief in as few as six sessions.

Joel Bass, director of sports medicine and assistant athletic director at Weber State University, said red light therapy has been used in localized forms for years in physical therapy.

"There's some really good research and studies out there and they've had some decent results," he said. "We have physicians on board for our athletes, but this will provide another opportunity for us to use in addition, and it's right here in our own backyard."

Bass said as the football season begins this fall, there's no doubt there will be some concussions. He said it will be interesting to see how the athletes who choose the light therapy recover in both body and mind.

Dr. Steve Scharmann, team physician for WSU athletics, said some people who suffer concussions recover in about 10-14 days. Others, however, take longer and go on to have other problems such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, dizziness, memory problems and fatigue.

"It's interesting because it really depends on who gets the concussion," he said. "Women, for example, are at higher risk of having a longer duration in symptoms, and people who suffer from migraine headaches get concussions easier and that last longer for whatever reason."

Scharmann said as the university recommends the red light therapy to its athletes, it will keep track of the results.

"This quality improvement project will look at the athletes who choose to get the therapy and compare them to the athletes who didn't get them," he said. "Then we will look at those results and have a better idea and a better understanding as to how much it helps. We're not going to be delaying anything we do normally with these athletes, we're just going to be adding this to our mix."

Lane Findlay, public relations director for the Weber School District, said the district has made its athletic trainers and directors aware of the red light therapy as a possible option that can be recommended to parents as they seek appropriate medical care for their children.

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