Atlanta, GA,
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Study Shows Benefits of Specialized, Multidisciplinary Care in People with Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries and Concussions

Allied health professionals are underutilized in treating people with mild brain injuries, study finds.

Tracey Wallace, MS, CCC-SLP, Shepherd’s SHARE Military Initiative project and education coordinator partnered with Chris Maurer on the SmartTECH project.

In a research study recently published in Brain Injury, researchers from Shepherd Center’s mTBI Brain Health & Recovery Lab aimed to gain an understanding of evaluation practices, post-injury recommendations, and referrals to allied healthcare professionals by first-line healthcare professionals providing care for people with mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).

First-line healthcare professionals are often the first to diagnose and provide supportive care to children and adults with mTBI. While many people experiencing mTBI will recover within a few weeks or months without specialty care, others will continue to experience challenges with dizziness, balance, memory, visual perception, and sleep, among other disruptive symptoms.

“When a person has a prolonged recovery after a mild brain injury or concussion, they can benefit from a multidisciplinary approach involving specialized expertise of allied professionals,” said Tracey Wallace, MS, CCC-SLP, FACRM, projects and education coordinator for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center and principal investigator of the study. “Our study showed that these professionals are often highly underutilized among family health practitioners for the management of mild traumatic brain injuries, which include concussions.”

The study consisted of an online survey completed by 126 first-line healthcare professionals, including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, and athletic trainers, on their practices related to mTBI evaluation, management, and referrals to allied health professionals. For the purposes of this study, allied health professionals included physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and behavioral health professionals such as neuropsychologists or counselors.

Reported rates of referrals to allied health professionals by first-line healthcare professionals were extremely low, as was the perceived knowledge of the roles allied health professionals can play in mTBI rehabilitation.

“Our findings suggest a need for collaboration across disciplines on research, education, and rehabilitation efforts to best care for people with mTBI,” Wallace said. “Programs like Shepherd Center’s Complex Concussion Clinic and SHARE Military Initiative pull experts from multiple allied health professions to care for patients who experience persistent symptoms after mTBI so they can return to their activities and enjoy life again.”

Shepherd Center researchers Tracey Wallace, MS, CCC-SLP, Amber Schwartz, MHS, OTR/L, CDRS, April Hodge, PT, DPT, NCS, Greg Brown, Psy.D., Russell Gore, M.D., collaborated with researchers Kelly Knollman-Porter Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Jennifer Beardslee of Miami University, and Jessica Brown, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Olentangy Schools.

Learn more about mild brain injury research at Shepherd Center.

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.