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The Role of Speech-Language Therapy in Post-Concussion Syndrome

Man holding his head in painConcussions are a common brain injury leading to issues ranging from headaches to concentration problems, but did you know that concussions may also cause speech difficulties?

Mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions, are usually sustained due to falls or contact sport injuries. They come with many symptoms, including headaches/head pressure, nausea, blurry or double vision, balance issues, confusion, trouble concentrating, light and sound sensitivity, memory problems and more. While it is common for symptoms to resolve within 10 to 14 days from the time of injury, occasionally symptoms persist beyond three months resulting in what is termed, post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS can negatively impact a person's ability to fully participate in activities and demands they once found simple. 

Cognitive difficulties included in the constellation of PCS symptoms often involve difficulty with sustaining and switching attention, difficulty processing and synthesizing information, short-term memory issues and slowness of thought or understanding. Common communication symptoms include difficulty comprehending and retaining information that is heard or read, comprehending multiple speakers, and when expressing, difficulty organizing language and thinking of words. 

Fortunately, speech-language pathologists (SLP) are trained in treating cognitive and communication symptoms that arise as a result of PCS. The focus of treatment revolves around symptoms identified during a comprehensive evaluation with specific emphasis on reducing difficulties that pose a significant barrier to participation in daily activities.  

Once treatment goals are established, the SLP will work with the client to ensure an understanding of how best to manage symptoms and rehabilitate skills through focused practice and training in strategies to compensate for cognitive and communication changes. While PCS can complicate life for the injured individual, rehabilitation specialists and, specifically, SLPs are here to help. 

Ultimately, any concussion treatment begins with concussion prevention. While these injuries may be hard to foresee and avoid completely, the following tips may help with prevention:

  • Always wear a helmet when playing contact sports such as football or baseball, ski/snowboarding, horseback riding, or riding any wheeled equipment like bikes, motorcycles, or skateboards. 
  • Wear a seatbelt anytime riding or driving in a motor vehicle, and never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 
  • For older adults: be aware of medication that may make you dizzy or sleepy, update eyeglass prescriptions regularly, and practice strength and balance exercises if needed to improve mobility. 
  • Install things like baby gates and soft materials under playsets to make homes and play areas safer for children. 

Experts at the Speech-Language Institute (SLI) of Salus University can help with PCS treatment. For more information on SLI's services or to schedule an appointment, call 215.780.3150.