What is a Concussion?

The general definition of concussion means the act of forcefully shaking or jarring.  A sports concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a shaking or jarring of the brain. A sports concussion can occur with a bump, blow or jolt to the head or the body which causes the brain to move within the skull.  This movement causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull or stretch which can result in a change in brain cell chemistry and structural injury from cell stretching. This damage can result in a variety of signs and symptoms depending on the portion of the brain involved during a sports concussion. Our innovative care strategies at Amped Physiotherapy will help you find quick relief.

Are Concussions Serious? 

Sports concussions are described as a “mild” traumatic brain injury because concussions are not usually life threatening.  However, concussions are a brain injury and can lead to serious long-term consequences if not managed correctly by a qualified healthcare professional.

What healthcare professionals manage and treat sports concussions?

No single healthcare professional is able to fully manage a sports concussion due to the many different issues related to a concussion.  Concussion management is truly a team effort to help a patient return to his or her prior level of function.  Members of the concussion management team may include a sports medicine physician, primary care physician, athletic trainer, teacher, school administrator, social worker, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech language pathologist, psychologist, neuropsychology, neurologist, radiologist, orthopedic surgeon, ophthalmologist, ear nose & throat physician and other healthcare professions. 

How can I spot a possible concussion?

Concussions are a fairly common injury, but many people are unaware of exactly what happens when one gets a concussion. This injury is a result of an impact, in which the brain collides with the inside of the skull. This can be caused by a harsh blow to the head or any traumatic jolt to the body. Concussions can also be caused if a violent back-and-forth motion (such as whiplash) of the head takes place. When your head tosses in different directions rapidly (such as from a car crash or harsh football tackle), your brain gets tossed along inside it, bouncing off the bony enclosure of your skull. Concussions can result in a number of unfortunate symptoms, such as:

  • Painful and chronic headaches/migraines
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Visual abnormalities
  • Slurring of speech
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to focus
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have a concussion.

What is the normal recovery time for a concussion? 

The normal recovery time from a concussion varies from person to person and past concussion recovery time does not predict future recovery time.  The patient’s signs/symptoms and course of recovery depend upon the location of the mild brain injury and the severity of their injury.  However, studies have shown that 80% of athletes recover from their concussion within three weeks, but 20% of concussed patients may take much longer to recover.  

What are some risk factors for a delayed or a prolonged recovery?

Not effectively treating a concussion right away can lead to some serious health risks. In severe cases, concussions can result in brain bleeds that require emergency medical treatment. In cases such as this, your condition will be treated at the hospital ASAP.

Delayed treatment can also lead to conditions such as post-concussion syndrome. Post-concussion syndrome is a serious condition that can last for several months, even without posing obvious symptoms. People who have post-concussion syndrome may experience bouts of dizziness, vertigo, or persistent headaches, that will not go away without treatment.

If you believe you may have a concussion, the best solution is to seek the help of a medical professional right away to avoid the risk of worsening the concussion. With the help of physiotherapy, you can receive the necessary treatment for your specific needs. 

What steps should be taken to help a child recover from a concussion?

The first priority in the management of a sports concussion is to remove them from play as soon as a concussion is suspected. The American Academy of Neurology uses the mantra of “If in doubt, sit it out” as a guide for parents, coaches and healthcare providers. Removal from play decreases the risk of suffering another concussion and prolonging recovery. Healthcare providers should perform a sideline assessment which may include tests to rule out a neck injury, issues with memory and neurocognitive tests (tests of thinking). Afterwards, you should follow-up with a healthcare provider for reassessment and management of the sports concussion. 

Treatment for sports concussion consists of rest and changes in daily activities in the initial stages of recovery.  Activities or environments that provoke symptoms should be avoided and may include loud music, television, smart phone use, video games and thinking tasks. Getting plenty of sleep and naps during this stage of healing is very important in the recovery from concussion.

A gradual return to symptom-free physical activity is appropriate when the patient’s symptoms begin to improve.  Guidance from a qualified healthcare provider is very important during this stage of recovery.  Physiotherapy can evaluate and manage possible inner ear conditions associated with head trauma, balance deficits, neck pain, headaches, dizziness and appropriately pace a return to cardiovascular activity. 

The final phase of concussion recovery includes a graded return to play protocol that slowly progresses from light activity to full participation in order to be cleared for a full return to sports.  This phase is not initiated until a patient has already returned to a full return to learning in school without accommodations, performing at their prior level of academic achievement and does not experience symptoms with learning tasks. Physiotherapists are qualified to progress a patient through a return-to-play protocol and work with the physician for final clearance.

How can Physiotherapy help a patient recover from a sports concussion?

Physiotherapists play an important role on a concussion management team. Physiotherapists will evaluate and treat many aspects of concussion that may include dizziness that may arise from a neck issue (cervicogenic dizziness), balance deficits, neck pain, headaches that are referred from the neck, vertigo from an inner ear condition (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), exercises for vision issues (ocular motor exercises), issues with blood pressure & heart rate with exercise (autonomic dysregulation), and help to progress patients through a graded return to play protocol.    

Contact Amped Physiotherapy if you have a concussion and are looking for treatment!