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St. Francis Spotlight: Concussion Therapy

March 12, 2020
St. Francis Spotlight: Concussion Therapy

By Jason Hill
Shakopee CAPS student, St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine intern

Whether it's a fall, a motor vehicle accident or a sports injury, head trauma and concussions are becoming more numerous. The symptoms that follow a concussion can create problems for a person trying to complete daily tasks. St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine has a team of specialists trained in concussion therapy to help those struggling with concussion symptoms.

How does concussion therapy work?

Patients can see a range of specialists from physical therapists, occupational therapists trained in concussion therapy and speech therapists. Each field focuses on a specific aspect of a concussion, however, reaching a point where concussion symptoms can be managed or eradicated is a common goal among these fields.

Physical therapy: A patient with a concussion may not always recognize that they have a concussion. When visiting a physical therapist, neck pain, impaired balance and headaches are common symptoms that a physical therapist can pinpoint. From there, a patient can then be referred to an occupational therapist or a speech therapist, while still working on solving their physical symptoms.

Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists trained in concussion therapy typically see patients experiencing concussion symptoms for more than a week. Improving one’s vision is the main focus.

“Patients will have difficulty reading or be sensitive to light. I want to get their eyes stronger and teach them ways to compensate for all of the issues they are having,” says Anthony Lane, an occupational therapist trained in concussion therapy. “Patients will perform eye exercises and incorporate strategies to reduce concussion symptoms as they do daily activities.”

Speech therapy: While it may seem unnecessary, speech therapists also work with concussion patients. A speech therapist, like St. Francis’ Catherine Mawdsley, works towards improving the five primary domains of a patient’s cognitive health.

“I test a patient’s attention, memory, executive functions, language and visuospatial skills with cognitive tests,” explains Mawdsley. The focus of therapy is then tailored to which domain scored poorly on the test. “I create goals and compensatory strategies to help with what a patient is struggling with. Just like when a person who struggles to walk receives a cane, a patient who struggles with memory will receive multiple strategies to improve it.”

What are the benefits?

The goal of concussion therapy is for a patient to experience little to no concussion symptoms, as these symptoms are what make everyday activities a challenge. According to Lane, “A lot of what we work on is education - teaching patients how to manage their symptoms and to not push through or do too much. We want patients to apply the exercises and strategies they get from the clinic.”

Overall, therapists at St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine work towards seeing their patients with fewer headaches, better balance, higher toleration to reading and screens, and a clear mind in a sense of memory and an attention span.

To make an appointment at St. Francis Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine, call (952) 428-2001.