What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that changes the way the brain functions. Concussions can occur as a result of a direct hit to the head (by the ground or an object), or from violent shaking of the head and neck (like “whiplash” injury). Immediately after a head injury, a patient can have symptoms that include headache, confusion, memory loss/amnesia for the time around the injury, foggy thinking, dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, double vision, slurred speech, problems with coordination, or loss of consciousness.
Athletes in all sports are at risk of a sports-related concussion, but the most at risk are athletes who participate in high and medium contact sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.
Most concussions spontaneously resolve within 2 weeks after injury. Recent studies have shown that when recovering from a concussion, is important to stay lightly active below the level that gives you symptoms. Limiting activities that trigger symptoms can also be important, such as playing video games, watching TV, reading, or using a computer. It is also important to stay hydrated, and get enough sleep to allow the brain to adequately heal.
Patients with a concussion that have a delayed recovery (longer than 2 weeks) will benefit from Physical Therapy for specific concussion rehab.
A physical therapist with special training in concussions and vestibular dysfunctions will perform an initial evaluation to determine what areas of the brain are delayed in recovery. They will perform tests on balance and reaction time, memory, cognitive function, coordination, and the oculomotor and vestibular systems.
Your physical therapist will customize a treatment plan to treat your concussion based on the findings in the initial evaluation.
Treatment will involve stimulating the brain in a controlled manner using different types of cognitive input such as eye tracking, balance and coordination activities, memory challenges, cardio and physical exercise.
Often, multiple challenges are presented at one time to challenge the brain on a more complex level. Symptoms are carefully monitored during sessions and new challenges are presented as tolerated. Neck pain that may be present from the initial injury is treated as well.
It is very difficult to predict a timeline for recovery once post concussion symptoms have been present for over 2 weeks. Research does show that certain individuals are at greater risk for a delayed recovery. These factors include a history of multiple concussions, a history of headaches, ADD or ADHD.
Our physical therapists work closely with both physicians and our certified athletic trainers in the local school systems to facilitate early and safe resumption of activities following a concussion, advice on activity restrictions and limitations, and progress athletes properly and safely through the “Return to Play” post-concussion protocol.