Work it Out Blog

Post-Concussion Syndrome: The New "It" Condition?

Sep 15, 2015

It seems as though every few years, the workers’ compensation claimant’s bar has a new “it” condition. Years ago, it was carpal tunnel syndrome. Recently, it was reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). Now, every time we turn around employers are being hit with a new one:  post-concussion syndrome. In a way, it makes sense. The national dialogue has recently been focused on traumatic brain injuries and their ill effects. From punch drunk boxers to football players’ suicides, the general public has been looking at and discussing the long term effects of brain injuries. It seems as though the public’s general awareness of the condition has made it a more popular diagnosis in workers’ compensation claims.

The Mayo Clinic has defined concussion as a “traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Effects are usually temporary but can include headaches and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination.” Post-concussion syndrome, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is “a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion.” Post-concussion syndrome symptoms can appear within approximately seven days of the initial injury and last for longer than one-year. Symptoms can include dizziness, disruptions in cognitive abilities, sensitivity to light, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety.

No single test has been developed to diagnose post-concussion syndrome. No single treatment has been developed to treat post-concussion syndrome. Treatment is generally aimed at the specific symptoms rather than the underlying condition, such as prescribing migraine medication for the headaches and anti-anxiety medication for the anxiety. Therein lies the problem. It is almost entirely subjective.

A claim can easily be additionally allowed for post-concussion syndrome as long as the claim is already allowed for a concussion and the claimant has continued complaints of headaches, dizziness, lapses in concentration, etc. Once the claim is allowed and the claimant is on temporary total disability, the next step is usually having the claimant declared to be at maximum medical improvement (MMI). However, due to the subjective nature of the conditions and symptoms, it is difficult for employers to have the claimant declared at MMI.

We know that post-concussion syndrome can be a problem for Ohio employers. The next question is what they should do. We strongly urge employers to obtain a medical release and a list of the employee’s doctors as soon as they have a claimant who sustains a work related concussion. If the employee seems to be out of work longer than they should be, start requesting records from his doctors, beginning with his family physician. Look through those records closely and see if there are any symptoms that would be consistent with post-concussion syndrome. Once the claimant files a motion to have his claim additionally allowed for post-concussion syndrome, the employer should have the claimant examined by a credible doctor, preferably a neurologist. Employers should also consider offering more creative light duty job offers to claimants receiving temporary total disability. Lastly, surveillance is an option for employers who believe that a claimant is engaging in activities that are inconsistent with restrictions provided by the doctor. These steps may not yield success for the employer every time, but they will put the employer in a strong defensive position.

If you have any workers’ compensation questions, please contact Stephen Matasich or your Day Ketterer attorney at info@dayketterer.com or 330.455.0173.

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.