Getting Back in the Game
From medical journals to movie screens to the NFL, treating concussions has become a major concern nationwide. Treating them in children and teens is especially difficult. Symptoms can be subtle, making them hard to recognize and describe. ChildServe’s concussion clinic is working to change that.
“It’s not like a broken ankle where you can immediately see something is wrong,” said Laura Van Dusseldorp, Clinical Team Lead of outpatient physical therapy. “A lot of times it’s kids telling their parent or coach, “I don’t feel the same. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I don’t feel ok.’ It’s a difficult thing to pinpoint.”
After Jairika’s car crash, she noticed she didn’t quite feel the same. She had headaches, difficulty focusing and lost sensation in part of her left leg and foot. She didn’t have confidence walking or driving because she could no longer visually scan her area and react quickly. A high school volleyball player, Jairika wanted to regain her coordination and get back on the court.
Doctors at Blank Children’s Hospital diagnosed Jairika with a severe concussion, one of the most common types of traumatic brain injuries. Jairika came to ChildServe’s inpatient pediatric rehabilitation medicine program for her injuries, but after she was discharged, some of her symptoms persisted. Jairika and her mom, Amy, came to ChildServe’s concussion program to find out what she needed to get back to normal.
Once at ChildServe, Jairika received treatment from a comprehensive team of specialists using state-of-the-art equipment. In many of her sessions, she used fit lights, portable flashing lights that measure visual coordination and movement, to quicken her reactions.
Jairika and her therapists also worked with ChildServe’s Dynavision, a computerized exercise tool that measures reaction skills and hand-eye coordination. The Dynavision provided Jairika and her therapists with one way to track her recovery progress. “I think it helped to be able to measure things exactly,” Amy said.
The Dynavision system, which ChildServe was able to purchase thanks to generous contributions to the ChildServe Foundation, is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to concussions. Not only is it the latest in concussion treatment, it’s also the same tool used to treat concussed players in the NFL. Dynavision helps stimulate the brain and body to help concussion symptoms appear, making it easier for therapists to pinpoint the problem and treat the patient.
“Some clinics, a lot of what they do is go right to the therapy, which doesn’t always address the whole problem,” Laura said. “Some pieces get missed. For example, some kids literally cannot read after their concussion because their eyes aren’t working together. That’s something that might be missed somewhere else. With a multidisciplinary team all under one roof, we are able to get a much more detailed assessment.”
Jairika passed her final assessment and graduated from ChildServe’s concussion program in May. Her next step is to hit the gym and build up muscle so she’s back in shape to play on her high school volleyball team in the fall.
“When you get a concussion, your whole world turns upside down,” Laura said. “We understand that. Thanks to everyone who supports ChildServe, the concussion program has the equipment and the people to turn everything right-side up again.”
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of more than 4,500 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, acquired injuries, and other special healthcare needs.