I wouldn’t normally associate the National Football League with Dr. Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing approach to treating trauma, but that all changed a few days ago.
If you’re an American football fan, you may have been following the NFL draft.
While this isn’t usually my cup of tea, one of our staff pointed out a rather irregular draft choice: the drafting of paralyzed Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
LeGrand was paralyzed in October 2010 after injuring his spinal cord during a football game. His doctors thought that he would be a quadriplegic in need of a respirator, but he has proven them wrong.
He started breathing on his own five weeks after the accident, can operate a wheelchair, and has even stood up, though with the help of a metal frame.
His goal is to someday go back to the same spot where he was injured, lay down on the field in the same position…and then walk away.
When I read this, I immediately thought of Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing, which encourages traumatized patients to go through the same physical motions as when they experienced their trauma, but this time escaping harm.
The thought behind this is that the body gets stuck in fight-flight-freeze, having not been able to complete the motions at the time that the trauma occurred.
By completing the interrupted physical motions, the resulting trauma can start to heal.
LeGrand is trying to do the same thing, with the NFL draft being an unusual assistant in the process.
We like to talk about trauma resulting from war, rape, and domestic violence, but shouldn’t overlook trauma that can be caused by things like car accidents, medical procedures, and health problems.
Would you like to learn more about effective approaches to treating trauma?
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Have you had a patient traumatized by health problems? What approaches have you used to help heal this trauma? Please leave a comment below.