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Shepherd Center’s Complex Concussion Clinic Provides Specialized Rehabilitative Care

Concussions can occur as a result of playing sports, car crashes, falls, work-related accidents, and other incidents. In most people, concussion symptoms resolve within three to four weeks, but for others – about 20% – their symptoms last longer or there may be complications that fall beyond the scope of primary care and sports medicine physicians. Fortunately, for these more complicated cases, Shepherd Center’s Complex Concussion Clinic (CCC) specializes in identifying and treating symptoms to help people get better and return to their lives. 


Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries caused by a sudden jolt or blow to the head and can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and light sensitivity, among others. Typically, concussions resolve within a few weeks as headaches, and other symptoms subside. People return to work, school, and/or athletic activities, often feeling as capable as they did before their injury. For individuals with complicated co-occurring conditions or risk factors for a more protracted recovery, a specialized assessment and treatment with rehabilitation may speed and improve recovery. 


Shepherd Center takes a wholistic approach so patients can receive an individualized treatment plan in one centralized location. 

“We have a multi-disciplinary approach to care,” says Russell Gore, M.D., medical director of the CCC. “All our disciplines, including neurology, neuropsychology, physiatry, sports psychology, athletic training, speech, occupational, and physical therapy, are under one roof working as a team. That is unique in the neurorehabilitation field.” 

The various disciplines communicate regularly to ensure the highest quality of care. 

“We have patient-centered goals,” says Cheryl Appleberry, MS, ATC, clinic coordinator for the CCC, who has worked there with Dr. Gore since its inception in 2016. “We meet several times each week to keep those goals at the forefront and discuss whether changes need to be made to the plan of care. We’re looking at all factors, including return to activity and play, return to school and work, and return to driving.” 

All patients receive an initial evaluation. Because impairments in specific areas tend to respond best to certain types of treatment, these tests help determine what the treatment team should focus on with each patient. Based on that information, the team develops a plan to aid the patient’s recovery. This can include cognitive rehabilitation, vision services, vestibular physical therapy, psychological counseling, advanced neurological diagnostics, and more. 

Treatment duration varies but may include outpatient visits ranging from four to 12 weeks. The CCC performs regular evaluations throughout to measure how the patient is improving. 


According to Dr. Gore, one of the most common misconceptions about concussions is something that is a relatively new concept. 

“Not too long ago, we thought that the only treatment for concussion was rest,” Dr. Gore says. “We now know that long periods of rest are not an appropriate treatment for concussion, especially among high functioning, active adolescents and adults. Immediately following a concussion, we strictly rest folks for only 48 to 72 hours, and then we want to start doing light activity. That’s where our team can help the most. Our team of therapists help people get back to school or work and physical activity as soon as possible with accommodations and treatment because getting back to activity predicts a faster, more complete recovery.” 


For most concussions, people should rely on their primary care providers and/or athletic trainers. For injuries that have occurred in the past six months with ongoing or complex symptoms, or with risk factors for a longer recovery, an assessment at Shepherd Center’s CCC is appropriate for diagnosis and treatment. 

Patients can either be referred to the CCC by their primary care provider or contact the office directly at Contact Dina Forehand, MS, CCM at 404-603-4314 or Cheryl Appleberry, MS, ATC, at 404-603-4980. 


Written by Damjana Alverson

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.