The Role of Speech Therapists in Treating Concussions

The role of speech therapists in treating concussions

Recently there has been much attention paid to concussions, particularly related to sports concussions, and the responsibilities of coaches and team management to effectively prevent and treat concussions for their athletes. 

While sports concussions are very prevalent, people sustain concussions from many other activities as well. These may include motor vehicle accidents, falls, violence, and work related injuries, among other causes. Whatever the cause of a concussion, proper treatment for a concussion is extremely important for a functional recovery. 

Unfortunately some concussions go undiagnosed and people don’t even realize that they have suffered a concussion until weeks, months, or even years later, and after much suffering. 

In order to sustain a concussion, you do not necessarily need to sustain a blow to the head, or get “knocked out”. A quick jolt to the body or head can also cause a concussion.

Symptoms of a concussion may include headaches, drowsiness, feeling as though you are in a fog, difficulty remembering short term or even long term information, difficulty maintaining attention (especially when there is background noise), dizziness or balance issues, and in some cases even short term amnesia.  

Speech language pathologists are an essential part of the team in many concussion cases. Speech language pathologists or speech therapists are not only specialists in speech, language, swallowing, and voice, but we are also cognitive specialists.  

If you have suffered a concussion, or think that you have suffered a concussion, and are suffering with one or more of the following symptoms listed below, you should consult with your physician and find out about working with a speech therapist who specializes in cognitive rehabilitation. Possible symptoms may include:

  • Headaches brought on by periods of prolonged or intensive concentration.
  • Difficulty remembering short term or long term information.
  • Difficulty listening or paying attention, especially in background noise.
  • Difficulty maintaining cognitive endurance for long (or even short) periods of time.
  • Feeling like your brain is tired or unable to think after periods of intense concentration.  (This is referred to as cognitive fatigue). 
  • Difficulty thinking quickly and efficiently.
  • Difficulty organizing, planning, and effectively implementing plans.  

Speech therapists who specialize in cognitive rehabilitation can work with you to effectively identify areas of cognitive difficulty and put in place a plan of treatment so you can heal.

Speech therapy can help you recover from your symptoms as much as possible and help you to learn to effectively compensate when you are having difficulty. Many patients have expressed to me how helpful speech therapy has been for their recovery from the devastating effects of concussion.