When someone experiences physical trauma (a serious injury) to their head or body, this can cause the brain to move rapidly back and forth within the skull, otherwise known as a concussion. This kind of injury isn't something to take lightly and medical attention may be required if someone shows the following signs of a concussion:
Sensitivity to light and/or sounds
Loss of balance
Difficulty finding the right words/"Foggy" thinking
Difficulty concentrating and remembering
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Sleeping too much
Concussions can occur during sports with physical contact, but this is not the only cause – the CDC reports that some of the most common causes of concussions are actually falls/slips and motor vehicle accidents, according to data from emergency rooms admittance.
So where do Speech Language Pathologists come in? Approximately 80% of people who experience concussions will recover in 4-6 weeks. However for some individuals, brain function in areas like listening and understanding, speaking, thinking of what to say, reading and writing, can all be affected from a concussion.
Speech Language Pathologists can conduct assessments on individuals who have experienced a concussion to ensure that their communication and information processing (cognition) skills are at a normal level. If not, they will work on these skills with the client through direct therapy.
A Speech Language Pathologist will also communicate with the rest of the concussion management team to ensure the return to school or work goes smoothly – this can include the individual's family, teachers, guidance counsellors, nurses, physicians, psychologists, physiotherapists and more.
It's important to note that children and youth are at a higher risk of developing long-lasting symptoms. Other factors like previous concussions, ADHD, or a history of issues like tinnitus or vertigo can also increase the risk of persistent symptoms. Children and teenagers might insist that they're in good condition to continue playing after a fall or injury, but coaches and parents need to ensure they sit out. As of March 2018, Rowan's Law requires schools in Ontario to implement a Concussion Code of Conduct to encourage prevention as well as Removal-from-Sport and Return-to-School protocol.
We all need to be aware of the symptoms so that if a coworker, family member, friend, etc. is showing signs of a concussion, we can help them get the medical attention they need. Remember, a concussion can occur even if the blow wasn't directly to the person's head, or if they remained conscious the entire time.
Here are some suggestions to minimize the risk of concussions:
Wear properly fitting equipment, including a helmet, when playing sports or doing activities like skateboarding, biking, snowboarding, etc.
Play smart – don't take risks or assume you're invincible simply because you're wearing a helmet. Concussions and other injuries can still happen while wearing one.
If you get injured or hurt your head during a sport or after a fall, stop immediately and sit out.
Always wear a seatbelt in a car and buckle children in car seats
If you or someone around you is showing the signs of a concussion mentioned earlier in this post, the next steps should be:
Seek medical attention to be evaluated; tests such as a CT scan may be performed if a more severe brain injury is suspected. Get written instructions from the medical professional for how to proceed
Watch the concussed person for at least the first 3 hours to monitor for worsening condition
Do not use aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 48 hours, only acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Limit activities that can overwork the brain and worsen symptoms, such as computer/phone use, video games, T.V., exposure to loud music or bright lights.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Facts about Concussion and Brain Injury: Where to Get Help. https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/providers/facts_about_concussion_tbi-a.pdf
Rowan's Law: Concussion safety. ontario.ca. (2019, May 9). https://www.ontario.ca/page/rowans-law-concussion-safety.
The Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. (n.d.). Concussion and Speech Language Pathology: How we can help. OSLA.
What to do For a Concussion Immediately After Injury: CCMI. Complete Concussion Management Inc. (2019, January 16). https://completeconcussions.com/2019/01/16/what-to-do-after-a-concussion/.
Andalusia Speech Therapy has multiple clinics across Ontario and offers virtual Speech Therapy to clients anywhere in the world. Contact us for more information.