GUEST COMMENTARY

Nesbit: Concussion prevention for older adults and seniors

Posted 1/25/23

Talk of concussions will take center stage this month, as it does every time there is a Super Bowl. The rhetoric will stay within the context of sports.

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GUEST COMMENTARY

Nesbit: Concussion prevention for older adults and seniors

Posted

Talk of concussions will take center stage this month, as it does every time there is a Super Bowl. The rhetoric will stay within the context of sports. Parents will contemplate the risk for their youth athletes and professional athletic associations will showcase ways they are preventing and addressing concussions when they happen. However, what is often overlooked is that concussions can happen where most of us will watch the big game: in the living room.

Before being Assistant Professor, Pharmacy, PT, DPT at Creighton University’s Health Sciences campus in Phoenix, I worked at an outpatient neurologic rehabilitation clinic with a team of health professionals who diagnosed and treated people with concussions. When I first started, it was surprising to see the number of geriatric patients that had suffered a concussion because of a fall. Sadly, often the scare and the physical trauma from having fallen overshadowed the concussion.

According to the National Library of Medicine, falls account for 51 percent of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in older adults. And often the recovery and rehabilitation takes months, even years. And just like “long covid.” some concussion patients will experience “long concussion”: prolonged symptoms where a person looks perfectly normal but they are suffering through daily headaches, dizziness, decreased mental capacity, “brain fog” and even apathy.

As a health professional with special interest in geriatric care, when it comes to concussions, I encourage all of us to be mindful of our older loved ones. Some tips to consider for helping prevent a fall which is the most common cause of a concussion among this group follow:

  • Talk to your doctor to evaluate your risk for falling, and discuss things to incorporate in routine to reduce the risk of a fall.
  • Do strength and balance exercises to make your legs stronger and improve your balance.
  • Have your eyes checked at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines, over-the counter medicines, herbal supplements, and vitamins.
  • Make your home safer by implementing non-slip mats, handrails in the bathroom, and limiting the use of a step ladder for hard to reach items.

No matter how a person suffers a concussion, what is clear is that it warrants extra vigilance and care.

Teaching the next generation of healthcare professionals about this condition is one way we at Creighton University hope to improve outcomes.

And thanks to the teamwork across the globe among researchers, healthcare providers and educators when it comes to concussion education, awareness and prevention, as a society we are enthusiastically on the 50-yard line and energized for the continued work ahead. 

Editor’s note:  The Independent welcomes all points of view.  Email your opinions, pro or con, to AzOpinions@iniusa.org.