The recently televised 2015 US Open golf tournament brought with it the usual drama of great players, a difficult course, golfers who played well but faded, and others who persevered and won and spectacular shots. This year’s tournament, however, featured another kind of drama that was televised internationally. Australian golfer Jason Day suffered a severe bout of vertigo on the course and almost did not finish. As the weekend progressed, we learned he had positional vertigo and managed to finish the tournament on the leaderboard, despite extreme discomfort and dizziness. Commentator Greg Norman mentioned several times Day had been treated with an “Epsey” (Epley) maneuver. Just what happened to Jason Day, and why was he able to finish the tournament?
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common disorders of dizziness and imbalance. It is highly treatable, and we help many patients with this condition. It often appears suddenly and without warning. Turning the head upward or downward are the most common triggers. The reason it is so readily treatable is that it is not a disease per se. It is not an infection or chemical imbalance requiring medication. When a group of calcium crystals migrate from the inner ear balance organ (saccule) to one of the semicircular canals, they interfere with fluid flow and stimulate incorrect balance sensors during head movements. The ears send mismatching nerve impulses to the brain. The result is dizziness, blurred vision and often nausea.
Jason Day benefitted from a maneuver credited to Dr. John Epley, an otolaryngologist from Portland, OR, who discovered that a sequence of movements allows gravity and the density of the crystals to clear the canal and restore normal function. Day also required medication (selected to suppress the vestibular system), as he was competing in a game that requires frequent bending and head movement. Most patients, however, do not need medication if they avoid provoking positions or movements for several days.
We commend Jason Day for his determination and toughness on the course AND for bringing BPPV and the Epley Maneuver to the attention of the public. We also thank Dr. Epley for discovering this simple and useful maneuver. Many people suffer for years needlessly if they are unaware help is available. Medications alone cannot cure this type of vertigo. As always, we want to keep you on a CLEAR PATH to good hearing and ear health.