On April 7th, BIST is hosting a FREE talk on Exploring Concussions:
Concussion Facts & Myths AND The latest Research Findings – featuring speakers Dr. Lesley Ruttan of Main St. Psychological Centre and Toronto Rehab; Dr. Carmela Tartaglia, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Disease and Dr. Anne W. Hunt, Manager, On TRACK concussion program Concussion Centre, Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
Our writer Karolina Urban spoke to Dr. Hunt about her upcoming talk with BIST.
KU: What are some of the pieces of advice you have for those who have sustained a brain injury in terms of recovery?
AH: Work as hard as your body and brain will let you; be open to doing things differently; keep in mind that recovery may continue for many years. I’ve seen survivors make significant changes many years after injury.
KU: Can you tell me about the importance of time management and prioritization and how to best manage every day life? How important is goal setting? exercise? Doing the things you love?
AH: All of these things are important! It’s important for health and well-being in general to be engaged in activities every day that have purpose and meaning to each person.
Time management and prioritization are important skills that can help us to find time to do activities we need and want to do. Using calendars to schedule activities, using ‘to do’ lists, setting alarm reminders are strategies that may be helpful in managing time. Goal setting is helpful for some people, it is important to set goals that are specific, meaningful and relevant. Setting time frames for goal achievement can be tricky as sometimes following brain injury it can be challenging to know how long it might take to do something. Instead, think about what you might accomplish today and consider how you will accomplish that-make plans and then do it!
Exercise is good for health overall and contributes to optimal brain function. I encourage people with brain injury to participate in exercise that they enjoy, but to do this in a way that doesn’t make symptoms worse. This may mean doing the activity at a less intense level, for a shorter period of time or in a less stimulating environment.
AH: Good mental health is important for well-being. Following brain injury, people may feel more emotional, this may include feeling sad, anxious, scared, angry, overwhelmed, and less confident to name a few. It’s important to develop a support network to help you through difficult times. Consider who your network is-who can you turn to for support-this might be a professional (e.g. therapist), a family member, or friend. If you are uncertain, community organizations like BIST may be able to provide some direction.
KU: Dr. Hunt can you tell me about some of your current or recent research and outcomes?
AH: As an occupational therapist by profession, I’m most interested in developing interventions to enable individuals with brain injury to participate optimally in meaningful activities.
Recently, I’ve been studying how self-management problem solving interventions can help adults and youth with mild traumatic brain injuries. Results from our initial work are very positive. People like these interventions and they are useful in helping people get back to doing activities as well as improving their mood. Our work is in very early stages though so more research is needed.
I’ve also been investigating how vision is affected following brain injury. Visual issues are not uncommon following brain injury. We think that in some people visual issues may be contributing to symptoms like headache and fatigue. Currently we are focusing on understanding and identifying these visual changes in youth following concussion.
KU: Where do you see research fitting in to rehabilitation and assisting recovery or helping to get people back to their daily lives?
AH: Research is very important in brain injury rehabilitation. We need to develop evidence to help us understand what interventions work for specific individuals-no two people with brain injury are alike! Participating in research may have benefits for brain injury survivors. By participating in an intervention study for example, there is the potential to benefit from the intervention itself, plus research participants typically feel good about participating in general because they are contributing to research and ultimately helping others with brain injury.
Although intervention studies may be hard to find, I encourage anyone who may have an interest to contact their local hospital’s research program. Being a research participant can be a very rewarding experience.
Find out more about BIST’s Exploring Concussions Speaker Series HERE
Register by March 31st at [email protected]
Karolina Urban is a former University of Toronto and Canadian Women’s Hockey League player. Currently she is a PhD student at the Concussion Centre in Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital.