Avera Medical Minute: Concussion treatment is multi-disciplined

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 10:27 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - When you hear the words concussion treatment, you might first picture a football player or athletes in a high-impact sport, but concussions aren’t exclusive to just athletes.

In tonight’s Avera Medical Minute, we show Avera’s team of therapists who have developed a clinic for anyone who finds themselves in need of help coming back from a concussion.

“I happened to be doing a remodel, and it was a freak accident. I had a shelf fall on my head, and basically, it changed my entire life,” said Jill Kolb.

“Jill had quite a few impairments when I first evaluated her. Neck pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, just general imbalance, as well as visual deficits,” explained Colton Johnson, a physical therapist with Avera Health.

“The worst thing about it is people think, ‘Well, it’s just a concussion, and you’ll get through this,’” said Kolb.

“You can think of a concussion as a brain bruise, so to speak. You oftentimes can’t see it on the outside. That’s why it’s very underdiagnosed, but you could tell with her because she was a very, very high-functioning person before. I think she’ll get back there. It just takes time,” said Dr. Justin Persson, a neurologist with the Avera Medical Group Neurology.

“Inactivity, when you’re dealing with persistent concussive symptoms, is probably the worst thing you can do. So we’re just really trying to make sure that people are aware that we have these services for them, and we’ll do absolutely everything we can to help them get better,” said Johnson.

“So today, we’re going to work on motor control, which uses a head laser that we put on her head to balance. It’s a nice kind of external thing for her to focus on that optimizes her neck movement adequately as well as some different balance tests and stuff like that. Other sessions will focus on manual therapy to help move her spine better,” said Johnson.

“Physical therapy is actually something that really helps. When I first heard them, I’m like, ‘What am I going to physical therapy for?’ But the team here at Avera Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, that’s changed my life, too,” said Kolb.

“The other thing that occupational therapy does, too, though I don’t think a lot of people realize, is vision therapy. So Jill’s eyes don’t cross midline as much. If you take a finger up to your nose and move it pretty close to your nose, they will cross. She can’t do that due to the injury. Her eyes don’t come to cross. So that’s part of what she’s working on with OT as well,” said Johnson.

“Crossword puzzles, numbers, identification with numbers and letters is basically how they do it with the vision therapy,” said Kolb.

“She’s definitely improving. That’s the good thing about concussions. They tend to be the worst immediately after and then gradually improve.” Said Dr. Persson.

“When I came here, these three people validated how I was feeling — found ways to help me get through it. It’s made it easy because there are so many things about a head injury that aren’t easy,” said Kolb.

“Yeah, I think it’s important for people to know so that they realize that there are things for them to help them, that it’s just not something they’ve got to deal with and suffer through,” said Johnson.

“Avera, as far as taking someone in and making sure it’s about them and their care, it’s just been phenomenal, and I’ll never forget it,” said Kolb.

Jill says it is her goal to get back to her pre-concussion self by the one-year mark of her accident this October. For more information on concussion treatment options, visit avera.org/medicalminute.