Important Lessons for All of Us from Secretary Hillary Clinton's Concussion Experience

Doctor Ann Engelland, author of recent book on concussions, It's All in Your Head: Everyone's Guide to Managing Concussions, explains what we can glean from the misfortunes of the Secretary of State.

New York, NY (PRWEB) January 04, 2013

Following a stomach virus, a fainting spell and a concussion, Hillary has been absent from the public eye since last month. Her woes continued to mount this week with the announcement of a clot in her head by several news outlets. Whether that clot is a result of her previous dehydration, her prescribed inactivity or a complication of her concussion is much debated among physicians online and those who play doctor on television (e.g.Sanjay Gupta).

Even though there are many unanswered questions surrounding this story, there is a lot we can learn about the experience of concussions and head injury. Here are a few lessons that come to mind:

Concussions are not just an NFL problem: Concussions happen in stupid ways, even stupider than playing at being a gladiator. Tripping on the sidewalk, banging a head on a locker, falling from the chin-up bar, getting hit by a stray ball as a spectator—all of these events have resulted in concussions in patients.

Recovery can be prolonged: while most people get better in a few weeks, it can take longer for some and the apparent severity of the injury at the time of the fall may not be indicative of the seriousness of the concussion.

Rest is essential: Hillary was sent to “work from home” which I have criticized because the mainstay of treatment for a concussion is rest. Unfortunately there is as yet no medication that promotes brain healing following a concussion. The only thing providers can offer is both physical and cognitive, or “brain work,” rest.

Withdrawal from activities is part of rest. In our wired times, it is really really hard to put down the screens—television, mobile phone, Ipad, computer. But it has been shown that this kind of brain work, even though it might feel like “rest” is not helpful to recovery.

Complications are rare. Again, most people heal from concussion without any major consequences. Whatever Hillary's blood clot is connected to medically, it is a rare phenomenon. There should be no drive to get more CT scans or MRI's in the average person who sustains a head injury just because of Hillary's story. Hopefully there will be more medical information forthcoming to calm us all down on this score.

And Finally,

People may doubt your symptoms. It's never a good time for the Secretary of State to have a concussion and be on bedrest, but the timing of this injury caused a nasty flare among conservatives who doubted her willingness to testify in the Benghazi hearings. However, it really is all in the head of the person who has been injured. It's extremely rare to have any sort of radiological evidence to prove that the symptoms are real. Hence the title of the book. Says Dr Engelland: “We need to trust ourselves if we are the concussed person and trust the patient if we are a bystander, family member, boss, or caregiver.” For more detail on the book and how to help:

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