Research

Workplace head injuries: reducing the risks of delayed recovery and return to work 

Workplace concussions, including apparently mild head injuries, can involve drawn out recovery times for workers, according to US researchers, who recommend mental health screening to identify risk factors for complications.

The psychologists from Ascellus Health, which provides behavioural health treatment to injured workers, say managing workplace head injuries usually involves "brief, acute care" focused on screening out more serious damage and prescribing analgesics and rest.

But many injured workers experience persistent pain and problems with sleep, cognition and inner ear disorders, while recent studies have highlighted the role of emotional distress from concussion injuries in prolonging recovery, they say.

In a study published in the Journal of occupational and Environmental Medicine, they say a care model involving brief neurocognitive and psychological screening can help detect these risk factors for prolonged recovery, at an early stage. These were then referred to medical and mental health treatments and short work-focused cognitive behavioural therapy programs, where appropriate.

They found the process resolved complaints for the majority of the 157 participants, who were receiving workers' compensation for delayed recovery from traumatic mild head injury and "post-concussion syndrome".

The psychologists involved in the intervention reported many patients had positive experiences with the screening "because they felt that their concerns about residual cognitive difficulties had been addressed in a reasonable way", the researchers say. "The focus on work-related issues in the assessment and in therapy was clearly important, as was the establishment of a positive treatment alliance and provision of supportive, psychoeducational input with an emphasis on returning to normal daily activities including work," they add.

Read more: Daniel LeGoff, et al, Improving Outcomes for Work-Related Concussions: Mental Health Screening and Brief Therapy Model.  [Full article can be downloaded as a pdf], Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online August 2021, doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002350. Source OHS Alert

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