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Concussions in the Workplace Q&A with George Morris, MD

Published in For the Health of It Author: CentraCare

Editor's Note: March is Brain Injury Awareness Month — a great time to learn how concussions can occur when you're on the job. George Morris, MD, a sports medicine physician at CentraCare, recently joined us for a Facebook Live to talk about the dangers of concussions and if they happen, how they can be treated.

Dr. Morris' full interview is available below. Some of the text below has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Many people equate concussions and sports injuries with football or soccer. So how can a concussion occur in the workplace?

Dr. Morris: I agree that a lot of the time we think of concussions in sports with kids. However, we have a lot of adults that are working in environments where they are at risk of getting a head injury, a concussion.

We think probably at least 40 percent of concussions happen due to a fall. Other ones happen, 15 to 20 percent, from hitting an object such as a shelf or a cupboard. And many others happen from car accidents, driving a vehicle — which could be work-related. Others happen from an assault or an injury. We do have a lot of professionals that work in jobs where they have to restrain people, they're security guards or police. So they can be in situations where somebody is trying to do harm to them and that can sometimes result in a concussion.

Q: What about in office settings. How could concussions happen to those who work in those environments?

Dr. Morris: At times here in Minnesota, when we have a lot of ice and snow, so the slip and fall is probably the most common one. For either when we're walking to work or still on the work setting, that's a big one. For many people that have to work outdoors, you know that's a risk. There are other times falls do occur, due to a slippery floor. We all try to be careful at work, but unfortunately accidents do happen.

Q: How long after suffering a concussion can a person see symptoms? When they can appear or when they could start to worsen?

Dr. Morris: That's a good question about the timing. Many people will have symptoms or concerns right away. You get your head hit, you have a headache, trouble with vision, balance or thinking or even occasionally get knocked out, go unconscious. Though that doesn't have to happen for you to have a concussion or head injury.

We also see people where it can be even a week or more than a few weeks later that the symptoms develop. One of the reasons why we think that might happen is you could say that well, if, during the fall, I also broke my arm, I'll be paying more attention to my broken arm. And my headache, my balance, my vision may not be the primary issue. So it takes a little time for that to become more time for that to recognized as a problem.

Q: How do you know if you should seek medical attention or should you just “wait and see?”

Dr. Morris: I think the “wait and see” approach is one many people take and that's all right as long as it's mild and you're doing well and if you need accommodations, you can do that. But most of the time in the work setting, we like people to get evaluated or at least discuss it with their supervisors. After that I think if the symptoms are starting to affect your life, your work, your sleep or how you're feeling or your mood — you should be evaluated by a professional that knows both your work and concussion care.

Q: How long does it take to recover from a concussion?

Dr. Morris: Well, that's a hard one to determine. Concussions, sometimes will go away within a week and self-resolve. A little bit of treatment is needed and then you can kind of get back to usual life.

Unfortunately, we also have people that have had a concussion in a work-setting and its long-term meaning, six months or even permanent, where we need to have modifications to work, adjustments to their load, adjustments to their daily schedule. We see that the brain injuries that happen, especially for repeated ones, become more and more of a problem.

But we can still have head injuries that then add up over time. If you had one as a hockey player growing up, and then I get one on the job, they're just going to add up. We could see long-term challenges as a result.

View the Entire Interview with Dr. Morris

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