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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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Concussion Rehabilitation: Not Just for Athletes

Some concussions happen on the athletic field – images of football players slamming into one another come to mind. But, more often, concussions are caused by a fall, a car accident, or even a “ridiculous accident.” That’s how Mary James, of Durham, describes the moment at work when an old computer fell off a refrigerator and onto her head.

“I didn’t lose consciousness, but I had a terrible headache all day,” Mary recalls. “Foolishly, I stayed at work. That evening, I had a difficult time driving home safely.”

Mary made a common mistake – many people with concussions do not understand how serious the injury can be. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by any hit to the head or body that causes the brain to shake around inside the skull. Symptoms may include headache, confusion, memory loss, dizziness and exhaustion. Mary had them all, keeping her out of work for five months.

Concussion symptoms generally resolve in 14-21 days. When they last longer it is called post-concussive syndrome, explains Lindsay Carrier, PT, DPT, CLT, CSRS, of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s Concussion Rehabilitation Program. This multidisciplinary team works with patients of all ages and backgrounds to help them regain function and return safely to work, school, sports or other activities.

“Concussions are not just for athletes,” says Carrier. “There needs to be greater awareness of these injuries, their seriousness, and when to seek treatment. There are therapies and strategies that can significantly improve the recovery from concussion and help people safely return to their lifestyle.”

In the Concussion Rehab Program, speech, occupational and physical therapists care for the whole person – using traditional, high-tech and virtual reality systems to treat everything from cognitive and memory function, to vision problems, balance issues and more. Behavioral health specialists address the patient’s anxiety and emotions, while social workers help navigate disability paperwork or connect with school counselors.

Primary Care Physician Nancy Pettinari, MD, CPE, of Wentworth Health Partners Internal Medicine, says, “Having such expertise available in a very collaborative setting was extremely helpful in my role of providing oversight for Mary’s care and developing a plan for her eventual return to work and full function.”

Mary’s rehab plan involved addressing her short-term memory loss and improving concentration. She focused on balance issues and treating her neck injury, another common problem following a concussion. The team also helped her develop strategies for managing her busy work schedule during recovery.

“The Concussion Rehab Team helped me understand my limits and where I could push the envelope,” says Mary. “Every time I reach a new normal of functionality, they help me figure out where to take it from there. This has been hugely important to my recovery.”

Learn more about Wentworth-Douglass Hospital's Concussion Rehab Program, or call (603) 740-2101 for more information!

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