LIMA — Lima Memorial Health System’s Concussion Management Center has expanded its services to the Lima Family YMCA, a move physicians see as an opportunity to better serve concussion patients in a more centralized location.
Dr. John Oehler, a family physician and credentialed ImPACT consultant, is seeing patients affected by concussion from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday at the YMCA Wellness Center. This concussion management clinic complements the concussion testing and monitoring that takes place at the Wellness Center.
Oehler is trained in the ImPACT program, which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. ImPACT is a concussion evaluation system developed to provide useful information to help physicians make decisions for treatment after a concussion. It’s based on a program from the University of Pittsburgh’s Concussion Management Center.
“It’s been validated across thousands of patients, and it is really good at picking out dysfunction for people even when they say they’re not having any symptoms,” Oehler said. “That means you can try to guide therapy to restore normal function based on a standardized test rather than just what the patient’s says they’re experiencing.”
Once a patient has completed an ImPACT test, Oehler will interview them to determine what event caused the concussion, as well as their family and medical history.
“As I go through this review, when they answer a question a certain way, I can determine whether we need to further explore those symptoms,” he said. “If it all falls under what we’d normally treat for concussions, we’ll treat it here. If it’s not, we will defer them to their primary care provider for further management.”
Oehler said he sees athletes who have suffered a concussion during a sporting event, drivers who have been in an automobile accident and any other patient who has suffered a head injury. The physician said it’s better for concussion patients to visit the emergency room before setting up an appointment at the Wellness Center.
“That way, they get screened immediately to make sure there’s no brain bleed or another serious condition that needs to be addressed immediately,” he said.
After treatment, Oehler said he frequently follows up with patients to see if they are improving, and will make suggestions on things they can do to alleviate concussion symptoms. Oehler said limiting screen time, or time spent on electronic devices, is part of the “brain rest” a concussion patient needs. For athletes, even returning to sporting events as a spectator may exacerbate their symptoms. He said the constant movement and general “busyness” that comes with these events can be detrimental for concussion patients.
In fact, the busyness that occurs at places like sporting events is part of the reason Oehler believes the concussion management center at the YMCA is a better fit than at a large hospital or family practice.
“It’s better for the patient because they’re in a more quiet environment,” he said. “Also, I have more time to dedicate to the patient because I’m not dealing with the busy family practice environment.”
Oehler said housing a concussion management clinic at the YMCA also allows the patient to use speech, vestibular and physical therapy activities all in one location. He said these activities help patients control their concussion symptoms.
Oehler said there is no “gold standard” for treating concussions, but he hopes the expanded services Lima Memorial and the YMCA are offering will hinder the risk patients have of developing more serious, lifelong conditions that stem from concussions.
“I don’t think you’ll ever be able to totally take away the risk of concussions, but it’s how you act after you notice one that can make all the difference,” he said. “Hopefully by making people more aware of the risks of not being treated, we’ll see those [concussion] numbers improve.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima