The New Approach to Treating Concussions

February 11, 2020

Rest, rest some more and if that doesn’t help then keep resting. That was frequently the treatment plan when someone was diagnosed with a concussion, but research has shown there are more effective treatment options. Here at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR), our new concussion program helps patients get back to their lives with earlier intervention and evidence-based treatments.

Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a board-certified Clinical Neuropsychologist, is leading the new Concussion Program. Pieroth’s approach is to provide an individualized treatment plan, including the most up-to-date methods of managing and treating a concussion 

“For too long the approach has been very passive, just wait and see,” said Pieroth. “Now research and clinical experience tells us that the earlier we intervene, the better the recovery.”

Some patients my need limited support, such as education, monitoring of symptoms and school or workplace accommodations.  Others may benefit from treatments that are targeted to their specific symptoms and work or school demands. 

“What really differentiates our program is that we understand what may be triggering those symptoms. The underlying cause of one person’s persistent headaches may be entirely different than another person with post-concussion headaches,” said Pieroth. “You need to complete a thorough assessment to best understand what the underlining cause may be to decide the best treatment pathway.”

Focusing on early intervention and active rehabilitation is key to the recovery process.  There are many reasons why resting is no longer the proper treatment. It can be difficult for many people, especially athletes, to stop all physical activity.  Further, evidence suggests that lack of exercise in previously active people can result in mood changes and sleep disturbance.  

“Research tell us that people who are shut down take longer to recover than people who return to activity sooner,” said Pieroth. “The idea is to get people back to activity, as tolerated, while providing accommodations and recommendations to manage their symptoms at school or work.  Most people don’t do well just sitting at home stressing out about how much they are missing and focusing on their symptoms.”

According to research physical exertion can help treat the autonomic nervous system dysfunction seen after a concussion.  However, it is important that any exertional program should be directed by a healthcare provider experienced in working with concussion patients. 

There are a number of therapies that benefit concussion patients. MOR, combined with Rush System for Health, has specially-trained physicians, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, athletic trainers and other clinicians for the most effective follow up care.

“I tell my patients that there is always more we can do. I never want people to throw their hands up and say I had a concussion and now this is my new normal,” said Pieroth. “There are treatments that are evidence based and show they are effective, but you need to do the work to figure out which treatment is need.”

Elizabeth M. Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP is a Board Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist and is the Director of the Concussion Program at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. She was most recently the Associate Director of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Sports Concussion Program. he has been involved in the assessment of players in the National Hockey League since 1997 and is the Head Injury/Concussion specialist for the Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox, Fire, and the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as numerous colleges and high schools across the State of Illinois.  Dr. Pieroth is the Co-Director of the NFL Neuropsychology Consulting Program. 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Pieroth, call 877-MD-BONES or click here.