Long-lasting concussion symptoms prompt guidelines for doctors
Canadians who battle lingering symptoms of concussions -- some suffering years after the initial injury -- have prompted experts to issue new treatment guidelines for family physicians.
Nearly 250,000 people in Canada suffer concussions each year, and they aren’t always a result of sports activity. Concussions can occur from a fall, a bump to the head or a fender bender.
Nearly one-third of those injured experience lingering headaches, fatigue, and loss of concentration.
Natalia Rybcynski, a successful zoologist, became worried when everyday tasks became difficult following what seemed to be a minor collision while cross-country skiing.
Doctors told her she had a mild concussion, but more than two years later, she continues to suffer from the effects of post-concussion syndrome.
“I have a lot of sticky notes around my house, I use timers to remind me where to get places,” she said.
The initial injury is often missed because doctors can’t “see” a concussion.
“I literally had a doctor throw up his hands and say, ‘What do you want to do,’” Rybczynski said.
Relief came to her through a meeting with Dr. Shawn Marshall, a physician who recognized Rybczynski’s needs.
Marshall, a clinical investigator at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, helped create guidelines for the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, to recognize symptoms and offer the latest treatment options.
“Rest plays an important role early on in the recovery following concussion and then we may need to even intervene with medications at times if these symptoms aren’t getting better,” he said.
Ontario physician Dr. Mark Bayley also worked on the guidelines, and said there is a need for earlier treatment, as wait times for seeing a head injury specialist can be as long as seven months.
"We’re finding we need to provide the family physicians with some guidance with how to start the treatment of the concussion before they see a specialist,” he said.
The hope is doctors nationwide will soon use the guidelines to ease their patients back into a normal lifestyle much sooner.
With a report from CTV’s Todd Battis