Head injuries are some of the scariest injuries in sports. Concussions have gotten significant media attention in recent history and for good reason. Historically, concussion management has not been the best, with the common scenario of someone that “just got their bell rung” returning to participation on the same day with a probable concussion.
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and should be managed under the supervision of appropriate medical professionals. If you are experiencing symptoms of a concussion, seek professional concussion treatment as soon as possible.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporarily altered brain function. No structural changes are seen on imaging with a concussion. However, metabolic changes and an “energy crisis” occur as a result of the brain trauma consisting of neuronal shearing leading to temporary neurological symptoms. A concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury.
A concussion is caused by trauma to the brain. This can be direct trauma to the head, such as a fall or an object striking the head, or indirect trauma, such as an acceleration-deceleration mechanism with the head and neck whipping back and forth, as in a whiplash injury.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Vision abnormalities such as double vision or blurred vision
- Fogginess or haziness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Ringing in ears
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Memory loss
- Mood changes
Post-Concussion Syndrome occurs when symptoms of a concussion persist longer than what is typically expected. Individuals with post-concussion syndrome typically experience symptoms for months after the initial concussive event.
Sports Where Concussions Commonly Occur
Concussions commonly occur among athletes who play contact sports, where one athlete’s head runs into another athlete or object. Examples include:
What Patients Are Saying
Shawn is amazing! He is very patient with my impatient teenager! I love how specific he is and I love how he takes video clips of the exercises she is supposed to do at home. Highly recommend!
At Herlong Sports Physical Therapy, we have extensive experience working with athletes who are recovering from a concussion. It is crucial that you receive proper care for your concussion before returning to play.
After 24-48 hours of relative rest, concussion rehab may be initiated. The focus of concussion rehab is a gradual return to school, work, sport, and other usual activity.
Concussion treatment will consist of your physical therapist examining several domains related to brain function that are commonly affected from a concussion in order identify your specific impairments to guide treatment. Your physical therapist will perform exertional, cervical, vestibular, balance, and ocular assessments to determine your deficits and develop a plan of care specific to you.
In rehab you will do exercises that involve various head and/or eye movements, exercises that challenge your balance, and exercises that increase your heart rate. You will progress activity based on symptoms. Rehab may be enhanced by performing exercises that provoke symptoms, but are maintained within a tolerable level.
6 Stages of Concussion Recovery
There are six stages of concussion recovery. They are as follows.
This stage may begin after 24-48 hours of relative rest post-concussion.
This stage consists of a gradual reintroduction of normal daily activities such as school and work.
2.Light Aerobic Exercise
This stage may begin if no symptoms are experienced for a 24 hour period after the initiation of Stage 1.
This stage consists of light exercise that increases heart rate. Examples include walking, cycling, or body weight exercise.
This stage may begin if no symptoms are experienced for a 24 hour period after the initiation of Stage 2.
This stage consists of more sport-specific exercise, such as running or skating – avoiding head contact.
4.Non-Contact Training Drills
This stage may begin if no symptoms are experienced for a 24 hour period after the initiation of Stage 3.
This stage consists of more sport-specific training that may require more thought and coordination. This stage also includes re-introduction of plyometrics and resistance training. It may also include passing drills without contact.
5.Full Contact Practice
This stage may begin if no symptoms are experienced for a 24 hour period after the initiation of Stage 4 and through medical clearance by a physician or athletic trainer.
This stage consists of a return to normal full contact practice.
6.Return to Play
This stage may begin if no symptoms are experienced for a 24 hour period after the initiation of Stage 5.
This stage consists of a full return to sport competition.