Recovery from TBI, Concussion

Occupational Therapy Quickens Recovery from TBI, Concussion
Posted on: May 19, 2016

BETHESDA, MD – A quick blow to the head can have a lasting impact on life. Concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI) diagnoses continue to climb. An individual in the U.S. sustains a TBI every 23 seconds, and an estimated 2.5 to 6.3 million people are living with a brain-related injury which often leads to long-term disability. With some calling it a public health crisis, recognizing the signs of brain injury and participating in appropriate rehabilitation is important now more than ever in helping survivors lead meaningful and productive lives.

“The one thing that is really important to understand is that the symptom picture can be unique for each person,” says occupational therapist Steven Wheeler, Ph.D, OTR/L, CBIS, associate professor of occupational therapy at West Virginia University and co-author of the American Occupational Therapy Association’s recently released Practice Guidelines on TBI, who has been working with clients of all ages who have experienced varying levels of brain injury for 15 years. “Physical symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, motion sickness, sensitivity to light and sleep disturbance. Cognitive symptoms can be things like decreased concentration, problems with recall and mental fatigue. From an emotional standpoint, anxiety is very common. Depression can be an issue. Irritability is a problem.”

Occupational therapy practitioners help those who have sustained concussions and TBI to regain and adapt to changes in physical and cognitive abilities. A new review of evidence suggests that task-based practice interventions using everyday common objects improves daily performance for those with impaired motor function, and compensatory strategy training improves daily functioning in those with impaired cognition or physical challenges from a brain injury.

The findings of systematic reviews of occupational therapy services appear in the May/June issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

Occupational therapy practitioners focus on affording clients the ability to perform everyday tasks, which can include self-care, cooking, cleaning, parenting, driving, returning to work, managing depressive symptoms and much more, despite living with a physical or cognitive impairment. Managing the transition for a client to return to work or school is something that occupational therapists specialize in.

“It’s very common when somebody is returning to school to be able to function earlier in the day and then just progressively run out of gas and have a recurrence of symptoms as the day goes on and not be able to tolerate toward the end of the day. I worked with somebody yesterday who was doing clerical work and was just finding it absolutely overwhelming as the day was going on,” says Wheeler. “What can someone tolerate or not? Occupational therapists can suggest accommodations and help employers understand needs.”