This month is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex injury with a broad spectrum of symptoms and disabilities. The impact on a person and his or her family can be devastating. A TBI is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or memory loss after the injury). Most TBIs that occur each year are mild, commonly called concussions. David B Gealt, DO, Director of the Concussion Program and Assistant Director of Sports Medicine at Cooper University Health Care, gave us a deeper explanation into the range of TBI symptoms, treatments, and long-term affects on patients.
“The more mild traumatic brain injury, which I see a lot of with sports injuries, it’s usually temporary, where you have some cognitive dysfunction. Sometimes you may have some other symptoms, whether it be headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, concentrating issues. But that usually does resolve over a period of time, and it does go away. Some of them are serious injuries. You may have some more permanent effects, and sometimes you have some other rehabs that you may have to go through. As well, if you have penetrating trauma, sometimes you also have to involve surgical intervention,” explains Dr. Gealt. “It can be very life-altering, obviously, not only for the patient, but also for their family. Things can just be turned upside down, and that’s why it’s really important to make sure that we have a lot of support and education about what brain injury is, and then also have the means on how to treat people. It’s unfortunately not a quick fix for certain issues, and especially if it’s more severe or significant brain trauma, sometimes you do have some life-lasting cognitive issues or physical ailments that you may need to further care for.”
The diagnosis and treatment of TBI at Cooper is approached in a comprehensive, collaborative effort through the Cooper Neurological Institute and Cooper Bone and Joint Institute for a multidisciplinary approach that can create individualized treatment plans for each concussion patient. For individuals with direct trauma to the head, obvious signs of injury, or suspected issues, the treatment team will perform a full neurological, cognitive, and physical evaluation. If neuro-imaging is necessary, Cooper has state-of-the-art facilities including the latest technologies in EEG, CT, and MRI scanning.
“How we treat it, again, depends. It’s a whole gamut, from conservative measures through the non-conservative measures, especially if there’s any surgical intervention that’s warranted. But it’s usually a multidisciplinary approach. That’s why with Cooper, we actually have a great program here, where we have sports medicine physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physical therapists, neuropsychologists. It goes across the whole board, as far as how we treat it, depending on, again, the symptoms that you see. So again, education is really the most important thing. Knowing what a brain injury is, and then knowing about what avenues to pick from, so that you can get treated properly,” adds Dr. Gealt.
For more information about traumatic brain injury, including diagnosis and treatment at Cooper, click here.