A concussion changed my sister’s learning

One of the newest measurements of an athlete’s status after a hit in sports is if they can perform the same on an eye tracking test as pre-season. If they can’t, they are pulled from the game.

When I was in high school my younger sister sustained a concussion. Her ability to concentrate on school work decreased, and her grades suffered. She was affected by headaches, avoided schoolwork like the plague, and was always frustrated and angry by the end of the day. 

Countless appointments were had with eye-doctors, specialists, tutoring centers, and nothing seemed to help. The concussion was forgotten, and we assumed that she wasn’t applying herself, or trying hard enough.

With what is now known about concussions, we understand that the areas of the brain responsible for the abilities of the eyes to work together, to focus, and to accurately track, are among the most likely to be impacted. The symptoms may be long lasting, and in many cases never go away.

In practice we’re beginning to see more and more cases of children and adults whose ability to learn, earn a living, or in some cases just survive day to day life, is impacted by the visual problems associated with a concussion (brain trauma).

Some of the symptoms can include:
Headaches
Dizziness/vertigo/balance
Nausea
Reduced reading comprehension
Inability to focus
Reduced hand eye coordination

Balance is an interesting one. As the triad of visual, vestibular, and proprioreceptive information makes up balance, anything that changes the relationship of how these are processed together can impact it. This is where we see referrals once vestibular treatment has plateaued. We also take referrals from our neurologists and neuro-ophthalmologist to manage the visual rehabilitation part of the treatment. 

I have been able to help my sister. It took a long road to get here, and until I furthered my education after professional school ended, I never fully understood her situation, or that I could even help. I see children and adults, every day, who have lived with these issues for much longer than needed and every time I see it, it breaks my heart. When we can see the broken leg someone has, it’s obvious, and we can understand how hard things can be because of it. In everyday life, we don’t have a way to see how a person’s visual system is operating, and we generally offer no lenience for the limitations.

It’s important to understand that there is rehabilitation available for the vision problems that can arise after concussion or brain injury. If someone you know or love is affected, please ensure they seek treatment in their area.

 

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