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Experts: No Evidence That Dietary Supplements Can Treat Concussions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Food and Drug Administration has issued a new warning about certain dietary supplements, which are used by many people as a holistic approach to treat concussions.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday, the supplements might not be doing the job.

The concussion threat starts with youth leagues – football players often taking blows to the head, some of which cause concussions.

It gets worse as players move up, and now in the professional leagues, there is evidence that repeated concussions can lead to long-term brain damage.

But it is not just football. Concussions can happen in almost any sport, and even cheerleading. Everyday activities such as falls, auto accidents, and any bump on the head can cause a concussion and perhaps worse.

The threat of concussions led some enterprising companies to market so-called "concussion dietary supplements," which claim to protect against concussions, lessen their severity, or help the brain heal faster after a concussion.

But the FDA on Tuesday issued a warning to consumers, saying the supplements are untested, unproven, and possibly dangerous.

"We don't have any evidence that there is any medication, vitamin, or herb that helps people to recover after head trauma," said Dr. Andrew Russman of the Cleveland Clinic.

In fact, the FDA has issued warning letters to several firms in the past, telling them either to submit scientific evidence to support their claims or withdraw them. At least two companies have changed their websites to comply with the FDA request.

Brain researchers said it simply takes time and rest for the brain to recover after a concussion.

"Rest, avoiding the symptoms, giving time for the brain and the brain processes to heal and return to their normal-state or near-normal state," Russman said.

There are therapies designed to manage some of the symptoms of concussions, such as headaches or dizziness. But they do not speed recovery, Gomez reported.

What can speed recovery is complete brain rest, followed by a gradual ramp-up to normal activity – including schoolwork and sports.

If at any time symptoms return, then youngsters and adults alike must back off on the activities to allow for more healing, and then slowly ramp up again.

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