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Concussion Program

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At WakeMed, we believe that concussion is a treatable injury. Our goal is to help you or your child return to the activities you love as quickly and safely as possible.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to concussion management. Our team of experts works together to evaluate, manage, and provide individualized treatment to both children and adults.

In some rare instances, an injury that caused a concussion can result in bleeding that can be very dangerous. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please call 911 and go to the nearest Emergency Department right away:

  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Weakness or numbness in extremities
  • Less responsive than usual
  • Persistent or worsening headache
  • One pupil larger than the other
  • Very drowsy, or cannot be awakened
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Increasing confusion or irritability
  • Not recognizing familiar people or places 

The WakeMed Difference

Not all concussion programs are equal. Our comprehensive approach means that we have all the resources you need all in one place.

We are committed to understanding each patient as an individual, to develop a targeted treatment plan specific to your goals and needs. We use the most recent scientific assessment and evaluation tools to provide dynamic and personalized care.

The WakeMed Concussion Program includes an interdisciplinary team of:

  • Medical professionals
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Occupational therapists 

We also work closely with other community providers, including Neuro-optometrists and Psychologists.

What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury and must be treated carefully. It is usually caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, neck, or body, which causes the brain to move around inside the skull. This causes a temporary change in the brain’s functioning, and can lead to a variety of symptoms. Symptoms typically occur immediately, but may develop gradually over time. It is important to remember you don’t have to lose consciousness or even be hit in the head to suffer a concussion.

What Are Common Symptoms of Concussion?

Recent research has taught us that there are actually different “types” of concussions. Although no two concussions are alike, many common symptoms include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
  • Vision problems    

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Feeling “foggy”
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Feeling slowed down

Sleep symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue

Mood symptoms:

  • Sadness or depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

What Should I Do if I Think I’ve Suffered a Concussion?

If you’re experiencing the severe symptoms listed at the top of this page, call 911 or visit the Emergency Department.

If you’ve suffered an injury to the head and think you might have a concussion—or would like to rule one out—we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our concussion experts as soon as possible. The sooner we can see you, the more quickly we can help you recover.

How Are Concussions Treated?

Knowing that concussion is an entirely treatable injury, our goal is to help patients return to school, work, sports and other enjoyable activities as quickly as it is safe to do so. The days of sitting in a dark room over long gone (and may even do more harm than good!), and we take a very active approach to recovery.

Because every person and every injury is different, it makes sense that no two concussions are the same, and we can’t treat them the same. Our concussion experts use the most recent research on evaluation and management of concussions to understand each injury, and each individual. Many of us were former competitive athletes, and we are mindful of the unique pressures faced by student-athletes. We understand the desire to return to play, but we also see the consequences of what happens when concussions are not managed well.

As part of a treatment plan, recommendations may include:

  • Vestibular therapy
  • Neuro-optometry
  • Speech therapy
  • Counseling
  • Medication management

How Long Will It Take Until I Feel Better?  

The length that symptoms last can be different for everyone, because it depends not only on the injury itself, but also on a person’s risk factors as well as their approach to recovery.

The good news is that with the right treatment by providers specifically trained in concussion management, most people are able to make a very good recovery. While we like to see patients soon after injury, we are also trained to treat those with long-standing symptoms as well.

How Can I Help Recovery?

Recent research has taught us that the best approach to recovery is a balance between rest and activity. The CDC recommends that at most after 2-3 days of rest, it is important to resume non-risk routine activities.

(Lumba-Brown A, Yeates KO, Sarmiento K, et al. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline on the Diagnosis and Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Among Children. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(11):e182853.)

The best thing you can do to help recovery is keep a very regulated daily schedule, including set bedtime and routine, eating healthy, staying hydrated, and doing your best to manage stress.

How Do I Schedule an Appointment?

We have offices conveniently located at the WakeMed Raleigh Campus, as well as at WakeMed North Hospital. For more information, or to make an appointment with our concussion experts, please call 919-350-7331.

What Can I Expect at an Appointment?

Your appointment will begin with ImPACT, the gold standard and only FDA-approved computerized cognitive assessment tool (and the same one used by the NFL, NHL, and many NCAA athletic departments). Our neuropsychologist completed a 2-year fellowship with the creators of ImPACT and developed a deep understanding of the how it can inform your treatment plan. Once you finish the test (~25-30 minutes), your clinician will conduct a detailed clinical interview, which gives him/her a chance to understand not only your injury, but you as a person. You will then undergo physical and neurological exams to assess balance, as well as vestibular (the system in charge of balance, motion, and dizziness) and ocular (eyes) functioning.

Once the evaluations are done, your clinician will be able to understand not only why you feel the way you do, but also what we can do to get you feeling better. Before you leave, you’ll have a comprehensive treatment plan specific to your needs.

At your appointment, we will also provide concussion education, and work with you to develop a strategy for return to school, work, and exercise. If referrals to other specialists or medication are needed, we’ll take care of that as well. Our program is unique in that we have all the resources you need all in one place. Our team will continue to work with you until you are fully cleared and back to your normal life.

Meet the Team

  • Paul Cohen, Psy.D.: Dr. Cohen is a North Carolina native and earned a Bachelor's degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He then received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Loyola University Maryland, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program. While at UPMC, Dr. Cohen trained with the creators of ImPACT, the most widely used concussion assessment tool. Over the last 5 years, Dr. Cohen has worked with over 4,000 athletes, ranging from children to NFL players and Olympians, and developed a passion for helping patients with evaluation and management of concussion. He has published several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on concussion management, and has been an invited speaker to national audiences as a concussion expert.
  • Scott Moore, MD: Dr. Moore is a general surgeon with clinical interests hernias, colon cancer and other GI tract disorders, chest wall injuries, and dialysis access. He is also a trauma surgeon and is a key member of WakeMed's Level One Trauma Center in Raleigh. Dr. Moore began his medical career in 2007 and completed his general surgery residency and a research fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill. He then went on to complete specialized training in Acute Care Surgery at the University of Colorado. Dr. Moore has published numerous original research papers and book chapters in the surgical literature, and has won awards at major research conferences. He is very involved with WakeMed's long history of medical student and resident education.
  • Brandon Schoonover, PA-C: Brandon graduated from North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga with a degree in Athletic Training in 2006. He was a collegiate Athletic Trainer prior to going back to school to receive his Masters Degree in Physician Assistant studies from Mercer University in Atlanta, Ga in 2011. He has been at WakeMed since 2011 specializing in the area of General and Trauma Surgery where he has received a vast amount of experience treating head injuries of all severities, from major traumatic brain injuries to mild traumatic brain injuries. He is also a Certified Brain Injury Specialist.

WakeMed’s Community Involvement

The WakeMed Concussion Program team is committed to educating our community on recent advances in concussion management, and helping to promote safe practices. We would be happy to come speak with your school, team, coaches, athletic trainers, and others. If you are interested in having us speak, please call us at 919-350-7331.

Where Can I Learn More About Concussions?

If you have questions about concussions or WakeMed Concussion Program, please email concussion@wakemed.org. Please note that this is not intended for scheduling purposes. For more information and resources on concussion, visit the Sports Neuropsychology Society.