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Headache, feels drowsy, frequent strangulation inducing brain damage

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Practicing since : 2001
Answered : 502 Questions
Frequent strangulation inducing brain damage
I've recently been participating in jujitsu, where a common choking technique involves applying pressure to the neck region and blocking blood circulation (carotid arteries and jugular veins) to and from the brain. The choke is applied until an opponent either signals defeat or if the opponent loses consciousness. The choke usually lasts for 5 seconds, and 90% of the time, the choke is released before loss of consciousness.( WWW.WWWW.WW figure 2)

I've been experiencing headache and drowsiness after being choked and the symptom lasts for roughly a day or two, however everything is back to normal within a week (usually 3 to 4 days at most). My symptoms seem to interfere with my ability to engage in high cognitive tasks (analysis neuronal spike data using MatLab). However, I do not feel any motor deficit and I am able to exercise at high intensity without any problems.

I think my symptoms are most likely due to increase in intracranial pressure (ICP) since the symptom becomes more pronounced when my head tilts below my heart. I believe the increase in ICP is due to occlusion of the jugular veins during heavy exercise intensity.

My question is whether or not there is a risk of irreversible brain damage being done due to the choking technique i've mentioned? My biggest concern is whether the increase in ICP be enough to decrease regional blood flow to the point of causing brain damage? As I've mentioned the choke lasted for less than 5 seconds, and my symptoms seems to be reversible in a day or two.

Thank you for your time!
Posted Sat, 5 May 2012 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Shiva Kumar R 2 hours later

Thanks for the query

Regarding the question whether choking causes irreversible brain damage or not, I personally feel repeated episodes of choking can compromise the blood supply to the brain and cause cell death. As brain cells have very high consumption of the oxygen and cannot sustain very long without O2, brain cell dysfunction can occur.

Also increase ICP can also cause symptoms like heaviness of the head, giddiness and impairs the fucntioning of the cells further which are already suffered by hypoxia due to carotid occlusion. If complete blood supply is cut off to the brain cells, they can die in 8-10 seconds.

Once the blood supply is restored brain cells gradually recovery anywhere between 2 days to a week. So I personally recoment to avoid such exercise and prevent slow death of the brain cells.

Thanks again for the query. I hope you found my response to be helpful and informative. If you have any additional concerns I would be happy to address them.


Dr Shiva Kumar R
Consultant Neurologist & Epileptologist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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