Helping People with Post-Concussive Syndrome

Dr. Robert Cantu talks about the various therapies to help athletes with the prolonged symptoms that often come with post-concussive syndrome which can significantly alter quality of life.

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[Dr. Robert Cantu] The largest group of patients I see currently is post-concussion syndrome patients. These are individuals that have had post-concussion symptoms for months, oftentimes greater than six months. Some of them will go on to have symptoms that last over a year or two. Whereas most of them will still clear even if it takes years, not all will. The group of post-concussion syndrome patients, because they've had prolonged symptoms, because it's greatly, in most cases, altered their quality of life, you're going to use therapies to try to help them. Some of the therapies involve cognitive therapy for the cognitive symptoms, vestibular therapy for the balance, the inner ear symptoms, upper cervical spine physical therapy for the cervicogenic complaints, especially in those with neck pain, visual therapy is also there for those with eye movement difficulties and blurred vision. If they go through the therapies, and the therapies haven't given them adequate relief then this group also will be considered for pharmacologic treatment such as the neurostimulants, often the methylphenidate group, for the cognitive symptoms—the feeling in a fog, the feeling lethargic, the feeling slowed down, difficulty with focus and concentration— or anti-anxiety medication for the mood symptom group that's got panic attacks or anxiety disorder, or sleep medications can be considered for the group that's having predominately difficulty falling asleep. Cognitive therapy involves two things. One is actual exercises where you're being asked to do rote learning and is challenging the brain to do it, but the other part of cognitive therapy is learning all kinds of cheat skills that allow you to function better with your impairments, like if you're having trouble remembering things that you see then use a tape recorder and have not only the verbal stimulus but the auditory stimulus. So really the cognitive therapy involves not just rote memory exercises but also learning coping skills.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2013.

Produced by Noel Gunther and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

About the author: Robert Cantu, MD

Robert Cantu, MD is chief of Neurosurgery Service, chairman Department of Surgery, and director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital; clinical professor, Department of Neurosurgery, and co-director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Robert Cantu