What You Need to Know about Vertigo

Professional golfer Jason Day was having a pretty good day on the course during round two of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on June 19. Day, who was ranked 10th in the world at the time, was just three strokes off the lead when the Australian collapsed and fell to the ground on the ninth hole of the course — his 18th hole of the day.

Though the crowd was immediately silent — and other golfers speculated that Day had twisted an ankle or tripped on the hilly terrain — Day knew what had happened: It was yet another bout of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a condition Day had struggled with for years.

What Is Vertigo?

The inner ear does more than just hear; It’s home to the microscopic calcium carbonate crystals that also work as sensors for gravity. When these crystals become dislodged from the hair-like structures within the ear called cilia, the crystals float in inner ear fluid. As the head moves, the motion of the crystals causes sufferers to experience dizziness known as vertigo.

BPPV — the most common cause for dizziness — is treatable, but it often returns with no warning due to specific types of head movement. While BPPV can develop with age, because of head trauma or as the result of another disorder of the inner ear, some people with BPPV have no medical reason for the condition.

Vertigo sufferers should talk to their doctor about BPPV if they experience:

  • Balance issues or a feeling of being unsteady
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Periods of dizziness that develop after you change your head position

BPPV is diagnosed after a physician has performed a physical exam and medical history of the patient, and possibly a neurological exam or imaging tests. Treatment for the condition can include medication, in-office procedures, physical therapy or surgery.

A Great Day on the Course

After his collapse, Day remained on the ground for about five minutes while he was tended to by on-course medics, and he finished the hole and the round —visibly shaken — with a bogey that left him just shots off the lead.

The following day, Day returned to the course and shot an overall 68, tying for the lead with the three others.

“The hardest part for him is the turning of the head every time and looking at the target,” Day’s caddy Colin Swatton told the Sydney Morning Herald after the third round. “It takes a second for his eyes to steady up a little bit…That was the greatest round I’ve ever watched.”

Day finished the tournament on Sunday, June 21, tied for ninth place, then withdrew from the following week’s Travelers Championship, presumably to undergo additional treatment before resuming his tournament schedule.

If you experience vertigo, the Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department’s Balance and Vestibular Rehabilitation Program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas can help.

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