Concussions, Coronavirus, and the Continuum of Care
HeadFirst Concussion Care overcomes the challenges of providing evaluation and care of head injuries with virtual visits
16 Apr, 2020, 15:54 ET
ANNAPOLIS, Md., April 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- HeadFirst Concussion Care, the nationally recognized program of Maryland-based Righttime Medical Care which annually cares for thousands of patients with head injuries, has seen the number of reported concussions in Maryland dramatically increase in recent years, until the past several weeks when reports have started decreasing due to more limited activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.
Karen Laugel, M.D., FAAP, medical director of HeadFirst, points out that the majority of concussions are caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, recreational activities, youth sports, and assaults. With a marked decrease in driving, activities, and organized sports due to government stay-at-home directives, fewer concussions are to be expected. But they continue to occur at the same level of severity with injuries such as falls — of which younger children and seniors are more prone — backyard accidents, and domestic assaults.
"We continue to see essential workers injured in slips and falls and motor vehicle crashes, as well as families injured in accidents at home," Laugel says. '"We would like people to know we are still here for them, and that we are providing medical and psychological care via telemedicine after the initial diagnosis of a concussion, or when a patient has been referred to us."
Laugel and her team's desire for greater access to care for head injuries led to her launch HeadFirst's telemedicine service. Previous studies reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that telemedicine can be an effective and safe approach to managing concussions in rural communities. That same care is now available to head trauma patients residing in any setting.
"Patients who have sustained a head injury can call Righttime and request a virtual visit with our HeadFirst team," Laugel says. "Most testing can be easily accomplished by an experienced provider using telemedicine via telephone, FaceTime®, Skype®, or Google® platforms."
"Much of the concussion exam involves observation of balance as well as eye, facial, and head and neck movement. This evaluation can be accomplished in a virtual setting," Laugel says.
There are times when a head injury is more complicated and, in these situations, may require an in-person evaluation. "Ideally, when the coronavirus pandemic is over, all head trauma patients will be evaluated in person at least once, to ensure a comprehensive exam," Laugel says. "Going forward, they can be followed by virtual visits. This may be the wave of the future."
According to HeadFirst neuropsychologist Tony Doran, Psy.D., "Virtual visits are a revolutionary new way to manage concussions and possibly mental health moving forward, allowing the patient to remain at home and receive care, not only for their concussion, but also for anxiety and depression."
Doran also says that "during the pandemic we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression, and telemedicine provides a safe and convenient mechanism for patients to see a mental health provider and receive the care they need. It appears that telemedicine can be used for the early diagnoses of anxiety and depression, and will be used with greater frequency during and likely after the pandemic."
Following a head injury, an evaluation by a trained concussion specialist is of the utmost importance. What may seem to be a mild bump or blow to the head can have serious consequences due to a chemical imbalance inside the brain, which interferes with the nerve cells that send signals. Sustaining a concussion or any brain injury can lead to disruptions in cognitive abilities and control of emotions, mobility, speech, reaction time and senses. Left undiagnosed and untreated, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a large impact on how a person thinks and acts, and on his or her mental health.
"The take home message is that a person should not delay evaluation and management of any head injury," Laugel said.
A service of urgent care company, Righttime Medical Care, HEADFIRST SPORTS INJURY AND CONCUSSION CARE is a community concussion clinic for the diagnosis, management and treatment of mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBI). HeadFirst's services at its 12 locations in Maryland include pre-injury neurocognitive baseline testing for individuals and teams, and post-injury medical evaluations for patients of all ages and walks of life, including plans for a safe return to play, school or work. HeadFirst also offers a Sports Injury Hotline for coaches and trainers, and a community concussion awareness speaker's program. For more information, please visit www.myHeadFirst.com.
SOURCE Righttime Medical Care
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