Concussion Alliance Co-Founders Interviewed for Slate Article

Slate Article

It’s March – Brain Injury Awareness Month. I’m happy to report that Concussion Alliance, a non-profit organization whose board I chair, is featured in How We Got Concussions So Wrong, a noteworthy article in Slate written by Isobel Whitcomb. Whitcomb found Concussion Alliance after she experienced a concussion and found it difficult to get effective treatment, or even to be taken seriously.  

Whitcomb interviewed Concussion Alliance co-founders Conor Gormally and Malayka Gormally for her article, which details Conor Gormally’s experience with Whitcomb’s own in receiving advice to “just rest” – now known to do more harm than good.  The article does an excellent job of reviewing current treatments, explaining what is understood about what happens to the brain in a concussion, and showing how change is occurring, albeit slowly. It’s well worth a read.

Concussion is having a media moment. Within the past year, journalists at Atlantic Magazine and Bloomberg News also provided their accounts about concussion care and included interviews with Conor and me. It’s gratifying to see that journalists who have experienced difficulties in finding effective concussion care for themselves are helping to educate others. All three found that Conor’s story resonated with them.

We in the U.S. still have a long way to go to offer top-notch medical care for people with concussions. I include other stories about the frustration involved in accessing effective care on my website. This is an especially widespread problem for people with symptoms that linger following a concussion. I frequently experienced it in my medical practice beginning in the 1980s, when patients came to my clinic after months and years of seeking but not finding treatments that improved their symptoms. 

This pervasive frustration on the part of patients, and the lack of provider education about concussion, is the reason the Gormallys founded Concussion Alliance in 2018, and is why I got involved on the organization’s leadership team. I’m honored to have been asked to chair the Concussion Alliance Board when the organization received its 501(c)3 nonprofit designation earlier this year.

The advice to “just rest” after a concussion – go into a darkened room and rest for days or weeks – is very old. The chapter of my book Shaken Brain: The Science, Care, and Treatment of Concussion (Harvard University Press, 2020) on concussion care begins by discussing the concussion experienced by a character in Jane Austen’s 19thcentury novel, Persuasion. The treatment for a concussion then was rest. It’s disheartening that we still hear about the same “prescription” being offered to concussion patients two centuries later. 

Concussion research informs us that complete rest or “cocooning” isn’t helpful, but it can also cause harm. A multi-faceted, individualized rehabilitation treatment strategy that includes an expert team of practitioners should be the standard of care, especially in cases where symptoms and impairments can persist and be multiple. In 2023, to address the persistence of incorrect or inadequate treatments and protocols, Conor, Malayka, and I produced a Continuing Medical Education (CME) program designed to educate primary care and emergency medicine physicians about best practices for concussions: “A Patient-Centered Approach for Concussion Care.”

Please consider supporting Concussion Alliance with a donation to advance their advocacy and education for people with persistent symptoms after a concussion. The organization needs your support to continue its work!  

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