The acquired brain injury (ABI) program at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Institute is providing faster access to effective outpatient treatment for people who have a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
Concussions are caused in many different ways. For Marcia Gartly, it happened when she fell and hit her head on the dresser in her bedroom. Brenda Lenders sustained her initial concussion when she fell off her bike and hit her head, and Iraj Hadin’s concussion came from a kick in the head while sparring in mixed martial arts.
Previously, people requiring concussion therapy were seen in a one-on-one setting for one hour, once a week. To see more patients in a timely way, the ABI team now delivers care in a group setting known as BrainEx 90. This name refers to the 90 minutes of brain exercises patients do during the sessions. The training is interspersed with education and rest breaks so patients don’t become overwhelmed.
Three BrainEx 90 groups are held each week for eight weeks, with up to seven patients in each group seen by one occupational therapist and one physiotherapist. Health Sciences students and former patients volunteer to help with the program.
During the BrainEx 90 sessions, patients participate in exercises for different skills at 15 stations in a circuit training format. The categories at these stations include self-management, vestibular rehab, vision rehab, balance and core stability, cardio and cognitive rehab. After each session participants receive a program to practice these skills at home on days they don’t attend the group sessions.
“While the therapy offers many benefits to patients – from helping them cope with challenges with things like vision, cognition, headaches and balance, to learning return-to-work and return-to-school skills, perhaps one of the most important benefits is learning they are not alone,” says physiotherapist Shannon McGuire. “I notice many of our patients relish being in an environment where they’re not the only person with an acquired brain injury.”