Factors Associated with Physical Therapy Engagement during the Period of Posttraumatic Amnesia

Courtney Spiteri, Gavin Williams, Michelle Kahn, Jennie Ponsford, Adam McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background and Purpose: Physical therapy is important in the management of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and associated multitrauma. Providing therapy during the posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) phase is challenging, given that hallmark features including confusion, amnesia, agitation, and fatigue may impede the person’s ability to engage in and benefit from rehabilitation. To date, there is little empirical evidence to guide the provision of therapy during PTA. This observational study aimed to explore the frequency, duration, location, and engagement of physical therapy provision during PTA and the impact of cognition, agitation, and fatigue. Summary of Key Points: The majority of patients were found to meaningfully engage and participate in physical therapy for the majority of sessions. Only a small proportion were unable to participate in physical therapy. Patient refusal and fatigue were identified as the most prominent barriers to rehabilitation. Despite fatigue and agitation reaching clinical levels, therapy could still successfully proceed on most occasions. Recommendations for Clinical Practice: Physical therapy is feasible during the acute recovery stages after TBI. Current results support the notion that therapy should commence early to minimize secondary complications and promote the recovery of mobility. A patient-centered therapeutic model that tailors the therapeutic approach to meet the individual’s current physical and fluctuating cognitive capabilities may be most suited for this population. Clinicians working with people after TBI need experience in understanding and managing the cognitive limitations and associated symptoms of PTA to optimize the provision of therapy. These findings could inform guidelines for the management of patients in PTA. Video Abstract available for more insights from the authors (see the Video, Supplemental Digital Content 1, available at: http://links.lww. com/JNPT/A368).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Agitation
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Physical therapy
  • Posttraumatic amnesia
  • Traumatic brain injury

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