Brock Holt Vertigo Boston Red Sox utility player Brock Holt has been battling vertigo since the start of the season. He tried playing through it at first, but after several weeks of having trouble seeing and tracking the ball, Holt landed on the disabled list. He had recorded just two hits over six games.

“It’s not often that you hear about vertigo in baseball,” says Vasileios-Arsenios Lioutas, MD, Department of Neurology at BIDMC. “But it’s an important symptom that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

Vertigo is sensation of feeling dizzy and off-balance, as if your surroundings are spinning out of control or rocking beneath you. With severe vertigo, you might have trouble walking or standing and you could lose your balance and fall. “It is often difficult for patients to describe it with precision,” says Lioutas. “And although from a medical standpoint vertigo is meant to describe a spinning sensation, patients usually describe it with the generic term ‘dizziness.’”

Vertigo is often caused by an inner ear problem. But in some cases vertigo is the result of a head or neck injury. “It is important to remember that vertigo is a symptom and can be a manifestation of several different conditions, some of which are far more serious than others,” says Lioutas. “Sometimes it’s as innocent as displacement of calcium particles within the inner ear, but it can also be a manifestation of strokes, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis or, as is sometimes the case, a neglected symptom of concussion.”

Your brain uses input from four sensory systems to maintain your balance and orientation: vision, sensory nerves, skin pressure and inner ear. When one or more of these systems aren’t working correctly, you’re likely to feel the intense dizziness of vertigo. Symptoms of vertigo can last for just a few minutes or can linger for hours and may come and go for weeks. Besides the hallmark spinning sensation, vertigo is often accompanied by other symptoms that include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Gait imbalance

For athletes, it’s important to keep in mind that vertigo can result in loss of balance and coordination during exercise and lead to injuries. “Athletes should be aware of the importance of vertigo, especially as a result of head injury and concussion and make sure to seek medical attention so that they can receive a proper workup and treatment.”

Treatment for vertigo depends on what caused it. In many cases, vertigo can go away on its own as your brain adapts to inner ear changes. For more persistent cases, options range from physical therapy to medicine to surgery. “The first and most important step is a thorough evaluation to identify and treat the underlying cause,” says Lioutas. “Physical therapy with specific exercises that help improve core strength and balance is a common treatment. On occasion, specific medications are used for short periods of time if the symptoms are particularly intense and interfere with a patient’s functioning.”

With the majority of the season ahead of him, Holt has plenty of time to get his health in order before returning to the field. That sets the right example for anyone suffering with vertigo.