New clinic in Pine concentrates on concussions
People commonly think of a concussion as a blow to the head.
A “shaking of the brain” more accurately describes the injury, according to neuropsychologist Vanessa Fazio of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“There's a chemical change that disrupts how the brain is handling blood flow,” she said
In response, a person might experience dizziness, fatigue, memory loss, sleep problems, increased anxiety and sadness.
Fazio sees concussion victims of all ages with such problems at a new UPMC clinic in Pine, which opened in late February.
The brain might not be slammed against the skull, but “it's the movement — with a lot of force and velocity — that causes a disruption in the chemical processes of the brain,” said Fazio.
“Typically, the symptoms do go away, but it does require some management.
“Certain things can exacerbate symptoms, such as increased physical and cognitive activity,” Fazio said. “So early management is the key to helping the symptoms go away.”
If a person's headaches, sensitivity to light or other symptoms fail to subside, Fazio might refer a person to a physician for medication.
The new concussion clinic — located in Suite 202 of the Children's Pine Center at 11279 Perry Highway — is part of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, based on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The program operates additional satellite offices in Monroeville, Bethel Park and Oakland.
Medical Director Mickey Collins, a consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins, oversees the program, launched in 2000.
“We really try to service whoever needs us,” said Fazio, 36, of Indiana Township, who primarily sees children, adolescents and college athletes and works with fellow neuropsychologist Nathan Kegel.
Fazio and Kegel both have doctorates and work for the University of Pittsburgh Department Of Orthopedic Surgery.
Both may refer some concussion victims for physical therapy — such as gaze-stabilizing exercises to treat vision problems — with Helena Pingree of the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services.
Pingree, 38, of Economy, Beaver County, offer such therapy for concussion victims at the Pine clinic and the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services office in Northtowne Square on Route 8 in Richland.
“I see elderly people who have fallen and hit their head,” Pingree said. “It can happen to anyone of any age.”
Primary-care physicians and athletic trainers generally refer people to the clinic, but anyone can call for an appointment.
A first visit generally includes an interview to gather information about a person's injury, medical history and symptoms, followed by a 25-minute test — administered at a computer — to measure a person's cognitive functions, such as verbal memory, visual memory, reaction time and ability to concentrate.
First-timers also undergo tests to assess their balance and coordination.
“A concussion is a neuro-metabolic injury that affects a variety of functions,” Fazio said.
“Often, it will produce physical symptoms, such as headaches or dizziness. It can also produce cognitive symptoms, such as memory problems, or slowed processing ... It also can produce emotional symptoms, where someone can become more irritable, more anxious.”
Depending on test results, Fazio might recommend that a young person do schoolwork at home or get extra time to complete exams at school. Fazio also might recommend that young people cease playing a certain sport through which they might experience a second concussion.
“With physical activity, we try to balance a little activity with not over exerting the person,” Fazio said. “We're really trying to keep the heart rate low during this time.”
Fazio said patients generally recover from a concussion within a month.
“It does take a while to get back to normal,” Fazio said. “The average recovery time seems to be three to four weeks, in uncomplicated cases.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Proposed budget keeps steady tax rate for Shaler residents
- New position brings uniformed officer into Shaler Area buildings
- 7 North Allegheny schools see dip in state scores
- Hampton drama club readies to perform ‘Fahrenheit 451’
- Ingomar MOPS offers discussions, videos, social time
- Northern Tier librarian discusses life, pursuits
- North Hills Middle School posts 5th-best improved score
- Students’ efforts breathe life into Pine-Richland school newspaper
- Pine-Richland High School tops county in state performance profile
- Project to put iPad minis in hands of Shaler middle schools students
- Wexford church’s candlelight evening brings the past to life