We’ve seen a lot of media coverage about concussions lately, and studies about the lasting impacts of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have us changing the way we think about post-concussion recovery.¶
We’re learning how repeated concussions suffered by professional football and hockey players contribute to permanent cognitive impairment, and how we need to curtail our physical and mental stress in the months following a TBI.
You don’t have to be a professional football player to suffer a TBI. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading identifiable cause of concussions. This includes slipping on wet or icy surfaces, falling from a ladder, losing your balance and just “going down” or accidents on stairs or uneven flooring.
The effects of concussions vary, depending upon the patient’s age and fitness, the severity and location of the injury and how well the patient adheres to her doctor’s directives while in recovery. These directives will most likely include a period of physical recovery, followed by brain rest.
What is brain rest?
Brain rest is the reduction of stressful or mentally taxing activities following a brain injury. Activities requiring focused attention, according to the CDC, can worsen the symptoms of a concussion and prolong the time your brain needs to recover.
Bethany Tully, 42, slipped and fell on ice in her driveway. “I was just going out to the car to get something, and down I went,” she said. “I really whacked my head hard, and I’m glad I went to the ER. Turns out, I had a lot of swelling. My doctor banned me from watching TV, reading, even sewing.” Bethany’s husband John took over most of the household chores for the next few weeks, and Bethany started wearing a bike helmet and didn’t go outside without traction devices on her shoes. “I couldn’t risk another fall, and since my concussion made me dizzy for the first few days, I had to be extra careful.”
How will a concussion impact your job?
Bethany’s a bookkeeper, and since the CDC recommends against tasks as mundane as balancing a household checkbook or spending time in front of a computer screen, it was difficult for her to “scale back” her duties at the office. Not that she could get there; Bethany’s doctor restricted her from driving her car. Her employer brought in a temp, and Bethany stayed home for the first three weeks of her recovery.
Even without the need for brain rest, concussion patients often lose the ability to concentrate. They may become irritable, and have slower reaction times that would impair their ability to operate machinery. Patients are told they’re likely to experience forgetfulness and are encouraged to include trusted advisors when making important decisions.
Air travel is known to irritate symptoms associated with concussions, and car passengers might find themselves with an increased susceptibility to motion sickness.
Concussion patients typically find themselves under close scrutiny by their doctors, who will help them decide when it’s appropriate to slowly ease back into regular activities.
How will a concussion impact your personal obligations?
Accidents tend to happen at the least convenient times. When you’ve suffered a TBI, it’s imperative that you avoid future concussions, especially in the crucial weeks or months during your recovery period. This means taking extra care getting around on icy winter sidewalks, staying off ladders and maybe putting off the home improvement projects you’d been planning.
Or, you could use some of the money from your insurance https://emerge.me/our-products/injury plan. Your safety and the well-being of your entire family depend upon the decisions you make following a head injury so it may be best to hire a neighborhood kid to help clean out the gutters and shovel snow this year. Your accidental injury insurance coverage can help offset these costs, and help with other high-risk projects you’ve had planned in your spare time.
How will you pay for time off work?
What if the nature of your job prevents you from limiting yourself to light-duty, low-stress activities? What if you can’t work at all for the duration of your recovery? If you don’t have paid medical leave, how will you bridge the gap? Accidental injury insurance paid out in a lump sum of cash, will cover your rent, transportation, utilities and other expenses until you’re once again running at full speed. How you use it is up to you and your specific needs.
“I can’t take time off work” is no excuse for risking prolonged recovery or re-injury of a traumatic brain injury. Your post-concussion recovery decisions may affect the future of your mental health, and pushing yourself too hard early in the recovery process may cause ripple effects impacting your ability to work in the future.