Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was sidelined for last Thursday’s loss against the Chargers with what the team deemed a “complex migraine condition.”

“Complex migraine” is a general term, and it can refer to a severe migraine, a migraine accompanied by visual aura, or lingering migraine complications. The precise cause of Kubiak’s migraine has not been reported, and there are a number of factors that can cause migraines or trigger intense, debilitating headaches.

Denver Broncos helmet sitting on field

Migraines, Visual Aura and Your Bite

As a Denver 7 report on coach Kubiak’s condition noted, extreme migraines may be accompanied by visual aura, in which the sufferer may see flashes of light, sparkling spots, or other distortions in his or her field of vision. In addition to the powerful headaches and vision changes, a migraine with aura may cause stroke-like symptoms including tingling or numbness in the face and hands, sensations of weakness in a particular body region, and difficulty communicating.

Visual aura may occur before the onset of headache pain, or the vision changes may strike with the headache. They may also persist after the headache dissipates.

The causes of migraines with aura are not well understood and seem to vary widely. Some recurring migraines with visual aura have been linked to dental problems including:

A 2006 research review advised a dental evaluation for those who experience otherwise undiagnosed headaches and observed that these conditions can often be successfully treated with dental appliances.

Migraine Complications

Without treatment, those who experience recurring migraines may suffer from side-effects that include persistent visual aura, or feelings of numbness or muscle weakness. According to the Mayo Clinic, specific migraine complications include:

  • Chronic migraines or status migrainosus: In which migraine attacks last for days, or recur over a period of months
  • Persistent aura without infarction: In which blind spots or other visual distortions remain for more than a week

You should see a doctor if aura last longer than an hour after a migraine attack. Enduring visual aura can be an indicator of stroke, and persistent aura without infarction shares some other symptoms with stroke.

Treatment: Getting Back on the Field

Coach Kubiak returned to the team this week after doctors ruled out stroke and other severe health problems (he suffered a transient ischemic attack—or mini-stroke—in 2013). The Broncos said he would undergo additional tests to determine the source of the migraine attack and receive treatment as necessary.

When TMJ, or a related bite or jaw problem, is the cause of severe headaches, an oral appliance is often an effective line of defense. If you suffer from migraines as well as jaw pain, difficulty biting, neck and shoulder discomfort, numbness in the hands and fingers, or ringing in the ears, it’s a good idea to seek diagnosis for potential TMJ and to rule out other concerns.

Denver neuromuscular dentist Dr. Kevin Berry has helped many patients put an end to the chronic headaches and other uncomfortable symptoms of TMJ. Please call the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado today at (303) 691-0267 to schedule your appointment.