What We Can Learn from Hillary’s Concussion

hilary-clinton-ill_2439936bAlmost everyone knows Hillary’s litany of woe by now: stomach virus, dehydration, fainting spell, head injury, concussion, out of work, blood clot in head.

Even though there are many unanswered questions surrounding this story, there is a lot we can learn from her experience. 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 on Sunday. Tripping on the sidewalk, banging a head on the hall 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 of mine.

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 we 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 relative “rest” is not helpful to recovery.

Complications are rare. Whatever Hillary’s blood clot is connected to medically, it is a rare phenomenon. Again, most people heal from concussion without any major consequences. 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 put this in perspective and 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 bed rest  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. It’s why I entitled my book as I did. 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.