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Martial Arts Helping Brain Injury Patients

Martial Arts Helping Brain Injury Patients

Posted - Mar. 30, 2004 at 5:25 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingA health department report this week shows brain injuries are surprisingly common -- an average of one person a day dies from such injuries in Utah alone.

Most injuries are still coming from falls and car accidents, like the one that put an Ogden youth in a coma for four months. But you won't believe what he's doing now. While it's quiet outside in his North Ogden neighborhood, things are not so quiet in Camron Stephen’s basement, and for good reason.

With martial arts instructor David Errigo, Camron holds his own, pulling off some coordination most people would say couldn't be done. Why? The 26-year old suffered severe brain damage after he was hit by a car on his bicycle eleven years ago.

As an advocate now for all brain trauma victims in Utah, he's pushing the envelope. And David is helping him and others like him do it.

David Errigo, Martial Arts Instructor: "When I first started with him, he could not do a sit up. He could not do a push up. First time we had him kneel on his knees he was sore for three days."

Though Camron can still fall without warning, his balance is much better. He must concentrate during these maneuvers to coordinate eye and hand movements.

David Errigo: "We've been able to get him to where he's able to do cross over patterns, something that is very difficult for people with brain injuries."

There are those who say this is too risky for someone with a brain injury, but Camron's response, "Baloney. Well, I mean the human body can make all sorts of improvements. They call it neuroplasticity where one part of the brain can take over for what the damaged part did."

Martial arts has even taught him how to fall, so when he does go down he won't injure himself. So how far will all this go?

Camron: "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible just takes a little longer."

The Utah Department of Health recommends some basic precautions to prevent traumatic brain injuries:
- Always buckle up. Make sure children who no longer fit in car seats use a booster seat until they are at least four feet nine inches tall.
- Keep your home free of clutter: use non-slip rugs, keep electrical cords out of traffic areas, keep stairs well-lit and use ladders according to manufacturers’ instructions.
-If you have firearms in your home, keep them locked away from children. Keep ammunition separate from weapons.
-Drivers should be on the lookout for pedestrians and cyclists and obey all speed limits, especially in neighborhoods and school zones.
-Pedestrians should always cross at marked crosswalks.
-Stay fit. Do weight-balancing exercises to keep your bones strong and reduce your risk of falling.
-Everyone who skis or rides a bicycle, scooter, inline skates or skateboards should wear a helmet.

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