What is a concussion?
Concussion is another term for a mild traumatic brain injury that is caused by a direct or indirect traumatic force. Head injuries playing football or soccer, whiplash during a motor vehicle accidents, and even the shock wave from explosions experienced during military service may all lead to concussions. Losing consciousness is not necessary to experience a concussion. A concussion is essentially a pathophysiological process that is more of a metabolic issue as opposed to structural. Symptoms can include physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep changes. These injuries are less visible than the athlete who just tore their ACL, sprained their ankle, or dislocated their shoulder. Those injuries are more evident and that medical attention will be required. Concussions, on the other hand, are more silent and less evident. The athlete may report they feel fine and want to go back in the game. However, these are very serious injuries that need to be managed appropriately from the beginning.
How are concussions managed?
Concussions are typically first evaluated by an athletic trainer or sports physician if the injury occurs during a game or practice. From that point on, the athlete is part of a multidisciplinary team that consists of athletic trainers, doctors, physical therapists, and in some cases psychologists. If your injury happens during a bike or car accident or a fall off a ladder during a home improvement project, it is important to contact your physician to start the process of recovery. Following the injury, one of the main management goals is to prevent a second injury. 40% of concussions recover by 1 week and 50% recover by 2 weeks. However, “post-concussion syndrome” is when recovery does not occur within a normal time frame. Initially, relative rest is important to allow healing. When appropriate there is a gradual, and guided, return to normalized activities including return to sport. If you experience a concussion, you may be asked to limit school and work activities and to reduce time spent on phones, computers, and other devices. As your symptoms improve, activities will be incorporated into your recovery as tolerated.
What are some symptoms experienced following a concussion?
- Balance problems
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Sleeping more or less than usual
What is post concussion physical therapy like?
Following a concussion, physical therapy is an integral part of the recovery process. We work closely with your physician and athletic trainer to ensure the appropriate progressions are made. During concussion therapy, you can expect to work with a highly experienced physical therapist who will evaluate the severity of your brain trauma and match you with tricks and strategies that can reduce discomfort, alleviate painful symptoms, and improve brain functionality.
It is important to minimize provocation of any of the symptoms mentioned above, and to gradually return from rest to advanced activities. Physical therapy may consist of vestibular testing and treatment, balance activities, endurance activities, and strengthening. Vestibular therapy helps you orient yourself during periods of lightheadedness or loss of balance. To encourage this your physical therapist will introduce you to specialized activities, including fixing your gaze at a certain point in the distance, or using simple movements to stabilize your core and limbs. With proper guidance these strategies can be incredibly helpful in improving quality of life as you recover from a concussion. Manual therapy may also be utilized to improve mobility deficits that may have occurred during the injury. Concussion physical therapy and rehab will be tailored to your specific needs and goals to ensure you get back to your activities as quickly, but as safely, as possible.
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injuries and should be taken seriously. If symptoms are ignored, they can remain for long periods of time impacting your ability to participate in your daily activities. Following up with your physician is required and a multidisciplinary approach including physical therapy is necessary for a safe recovery from these injuries.
If you or a loved one has experienced a concussion, contact The Fit Institute (TFI) at Chicago, North Center, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Roscoe Village, IL to learn more about concussion treatment and therapy options.