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Posted on 03-24-2014

Dr. Gallop's Recent Insights on Concussions

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog posts to to bring you this BREAKING STORY

Concussions 101

I have been working with people of all ages who are dealing with acquired brain injuries and concussions for 25 years. I have seen people with slight concussions and people with severe brain injuries and everything in between. A respected occupational therapist tried to tell me that concussions are totally different than traumatic brain injuries. It just doesn't appear that way to me. And I see no value in thinking there is any significant difference other than one of degree. I doubt that a severe concussion is any less debilitating than any other brain injury, since that is precisely what a concussion is.

One of the most common effects of any brain injury is vision problems. Some people have trouble seeing clearly, some have double vision. Some have all of these. It is not uncommon, after a head injury, to have trouble reading, working at a computer or tolerating light. Many brain injured people have headaches that are related to visual activities. Many have balance issues, dizziness and nausea. All of these problems can be helped with vision therapy and therapeutic lenses. Concussions can result in much the same situation; I know this for a fact.

I recently had my own concussion. I fell backward from a standing position and ended up hitting the back of my head. I immediately got to my feet and took stock of the situation for a minute. I did feel a slight headache and slight queasiness, but decided I was fine. I finished shoveling my driveway and then went to work. After a short while at my office I decided to see my chiropractor because my body was sore in many places. He adjusted my neck, spine and hips, and also did some basic testing that showed I had suffered a mild concussion. For almost two weeks I was very light and sound sensitive. I had to avoid the computer and television. I felt better wearing darkened glasses indoors. It was very difficult for me to read or to write. Even now, three weeks later, I still prefer to avoid reading and listening to music. I have felt a bit foggy at times and this still comes and goes; some days are better than others. I am starting to get a headache typing this.

It is well known that, especially in the period immediately following a head injury, one should minimize or eliminate stimulation to the brain in order to allow it some down-time. This will speed up the healing process. I did the best I could with the exception of going to work as usual. For the first week or so, I got home from work and went straight to bed. This is not my normal routine.

I have watched countless patients get bullied by employers, insurance companies, doctors (mostly neurologists) working for insurance companies and lawyers working for insurance companies after sustaining significant brain injuries. They are almost all accused of faking. It is very hard to trick an experienced behavioral optometrist into thinking you have vision problems that you don't actually have. I recently was asked to respond to a report by a neurologist who had recently examined one of my patients. He said that the crack in the windshield, which was impacted from inside the vehicle, directly in front of the driver's seat could have been caused by something other than the driver's head. Really? He also said that since she had no cut on her head or fracture to her skull that she couldn't have sustained a head injury. This is beyond absurd.

Many of my patients report that independent examiners determined that they should be completely better after a certain period of time. There is no schedule for recovering from a brain injury. There's a saying among those in the rehab community: If you've met one person with a brain injury, you've met one person with a brain injury. There are many possible repercussions from a blow to the head and each person is different to begin with. There is no benefit to treating all brain injuries alike. Sure there are always people ready to game the system, but I haven't seen one yet. Every brain injured individual I have worked with is just trying to get back as much of their life as possible…as quickly as possible.

Please be vigilant if you or someone you care for has sustained even a slight head injury. Assume that they are honestly describing how they feel and what they can and cannot do following the injury. Symptoms can come and go for much longer than you might think. I can now personally attest to that. My deficits are not as completely gone as I would like to think. Time for some vision therapy.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts.

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