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Occupational Therapy and Concussion

Occupational Therapy and Concussion
Jaclyn Stephens, PhD, MS, OTR/L, CBIS
April 24, 2016

Definition of Concussion

Most of you probably know what concussion is. However, often people do not understand that a concussion is a type of brain injury. There is plenty of information online about concussion and what it is, and this is just one definition, although most of them are quite similar.

A concussion is a violent jarring or shaking that results in the disturbance of brain function.

At this time, I will not be showing any videos on concussion, but many videos are available online. I have some videos of my own that I cannot share with you just yet because they are part of an ongoing research project. This one that I have highlighted here is a depiction of concussion. It shows you what happens to the brain at a very microscopic and global level. The bruising and the axonal tearing that can happen just like other types of traumatic brain injury. Concussions are not necessarily all the same thing. They can happen in various parts of the brain and can have varying symptoms. We will talk a little bit more about that as we progress through this presentation.

Again, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury, and it sits on the traumatic brain injury spectrum. The traumatic brain injury spectrum includes injuries that are mild, moderate or severe. They are identified and classified as such using various methods and measures. This chart that I have on the left has three indicators that are used to define the severity of a traumatic brain injury. We will go through each acronym in a little bit more detail. 


Figure 1. Levels of TBI.

  • GCS, or Glasgow Coma Scale
  • PTA, or post-traumatic amnesia
  • LOC, or loss of consciousness

Glasgow Coma Scale

The glasgow coma scale is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. Glasgow Coma Scale. View enlarged version (PDF)

jaclyn stephens

Jaclyn Stephens, PhD, MS, OTR/L, CBIS

Jaclyn received her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and her PhD in Cognitive and Brain Sciences from the University of Nevada in Reno.  Jaclyn is also a Clinical Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) and is presently completing a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric traumatic brain injury at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 

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