OT Professional Responsibility: Concussions

Professional responsibility and vocalizing safety practices

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.”  - President Obama

I love football as much as the next Cornhusker. This past weekend I even dedicated an evening to snacking and celebrating the Superbowl. But the consistent stream of news about the long term damage from concussions has me thinking about OTs' professional responsibility with regards to the topic.

First, I have general questions about OT's role with concussions. With a true concussion, a person recovers relatively "quickly and fully." The recovery could be said to be "spontaneous" a trademark that typically negates the need for therapy. However, purely based on anecdotal evidence, there seems to be a gap in the education that is provided about the recovery process. If the CT scan is negative, the individual is often cleared to go home. I assume some kind of education happens, but I keep hearing stories about kids with lingering speech impairments and memory deficits and parents/teachers with lots of questions.

If you are an OT who works on a regular basis with concussions what kind of assessments are you using? What kind of education tools? Is there truly a gap in education where we could be more involved? 

With regards to sports injuries, specifically, what is OT's role, as a profession educated on brain injuries and as healthcare workers who work day to day with people who suffer them? If I was a client, I would expect my healthcare providers to speak to me about concussions and but up to date on the unfolding news.  Are we ready to speak to our clients about them? Should we be more vocal in the public arena and be advocating for a ban of football (or maybe just increased safety)? As President Obama suggests should we be thinking long and hard about having our own kids play football?  

If you have any thoughts and/or experience with this topic, I would love to hear about it.

If you're new to this conversation I suggest the Oct. 2009 New Yorker article, "Football, dogfighting and brain damage,"  by Malcom Gladwell.