What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that is generally, but NOT always caused by a hit to the head. Following a concussion, brain function may change and could last anywhere from 10-14 days, however according to recent Canadian research, this change could last longer. A concussion cannot be seen on routine x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness. Symptoms of a concussion often start to improve within 10-14 days. In some cases, it can take weeks or months to heal. In addition, repeated concussions may take even longer.
How Can a Physiotherapist Help with a Concussion?
A physiotherapist can offer education and support to ensure the best possible outcome following a concussion. It is recommended that you seek physiotherapy assessment and treatment as soon as possible after the concussion.
Read our answers to common concussions questions.
- What will the physiotherapist do at my first assessment?
At your first appointment, your physiotherapist will perform an initial assessment that includes a full history of your injury/accident, your past medical history, and detailed questions about your current symptoms.
The physiotherapist will then complete a physical evaluation of your neck and upper back in order to rule out any injuries to these areas.
If the physiotherapist feels you are at the proper stage of healing, she will begin an assessment of the visual and vestibular systems (your vision and balance).
After the physiotherapist explains the findings you will receive clear instructions to ensure the best recovery.
- What kinds of treatments do physiotherapists do for concussions?
Physiotherapy treatments are tailored to each individual’s specific needs based on the injury type, mechanism of injury, and the assessment findings. They may include manual therapy to restore joint problems in the neck, upper back and shoulder area, exercises to regain mobility, strength and balance, acupuncture, and visual-motor and vestibular retraining exercises to restore normal brain function.
- How long will it take to recover from my concussion?
Every individual is different and the length of treatment will vary depending on the symptoms. Your therapist will progress your treatments as your condition allow and support you throughout your recovery process.
- What kind of training do your physiotherapists have?
We have physiotherapists on staff with specific experience and training in the management of concussions, manual therapy, acupuncture, dry needling, visual-motor integration training, and vestibular rehabilitation therapies.
- What activities are linked to concussions?
- Playground injury
- Car/bike accident
- Sports-Related Injury
- Canadian Stats on Concussions
- 64% of visits to hospital emergency departments among 10-18 year-olds are related to participation in sports, physical activity and recreation.
- Among children and youth (10-18 years) who visit an emergency department for a sports-related head injury, 39% were diagnosed with concussions, while a further 24% were possible concussions.
- Football, soccer and hockey have all shown a greater than 40% increase in rates of reported head injury (relative to other injuries) between 2004 and 2014 for children and youth.
Rest is extremely important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. If you have sustained a concussion, get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day.
If you suspect a player has sustained a concussion, ensure that the player is continuously monitored until a parent or responsible adult is available to take them to a doctor. Watch for red flags and signs and symptoms of a concussion.
Do not give the player any medications unless directed by a doctor. There is evidence that some medications can worsen concussion symptoms and increase potential risks associated with brain injuries.
Concussed athletes need to be progressed properly and continually assessed for any symptoms that may arise with increased movement, activity, or exertion. The overall goal is to properly manage and progress the athlete towards return to his/her sport as safely as possible and to reduce risks of further and worse consequences.
Each athlete is different, as is each concussion. Treat the symptoms that the athlete presents with, and tailor the plan of care to their needs. Athletes need to be challenged in ways the average person does not, so when appropriate you can challenge them to try to provoke symptoms, always erring on the side of caution.
After a concussion, rest is extremely important because it helps the brain to heal. If you have sustained a concussion, get plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
Activities that are physically demanding or that require a lot of concentration can worsen your symptoms and should be avoided. Return to normal activities gradually, and check with your health care providers about when it is safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or operate equipment.
If you are working, consider speaking with your employer about a gradual return to work, and modifying your work activities if necessary. It is also important to avoid alcohol and only take drugs approved by your doctor. Avoid sustained computer or personal digital device use, which could cause headaches, dizziness, and other post-concussion symptoms.
- Parents and Caregivers
If you suspect your child has sustained a concussion, remove the child from play immediately, and watch for possible symptoms to evolve. If symptoms of a concussion are seen, take your child to a health care professional.
Upon discharge from medical care follow the instructions of the professional. Rest is key, including physical rest and pacing of activities. Cognitive rest is very important following a concussion. Activities that require concentration/attention may exacerbate post-concussion symptoms and delay recovery.
Ensure that the child is free from symptoms for 24 hours before allowing a gradual return to school, sports, electronic device use, etc. One of the most common problems during recovery is returning to full activities too soon.
Consider setting up a meeting with the principal, your child's teacher(s), resource teachers and counselors to discuss the best return to school plan for your child. This may include rest breaks throughout the day; less homework or more time to complete tests/projects; reducing time writing or looking at a computer screen; and/or receiving help with completing schoolwork.
Once your child has successfully returned to a full day of school they may begin to focus on returning to sports.
The Concussion Awareness Training Tool is an excellent resource for players, coachers, parents, and anyone who would like to learn more about concussions.
Warning Signs & Symptoms of a Concussion
Symptoms of a concussion can appear immediately or a few days after the injury occurred. It is typical to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Pressure in the head
- Sensitivity to light
- Neck pain
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
- Noise sensitivity
- Fatigue/low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling of being “not right” or in a fog
Emotional & Sleep
- Poor sleep quality
- Sleeping too much
Have you been diagnosed with a concussion?
Our registered physiotherapists can develop a custom treatment plan to treat, manage, and help you heal after suffering a concussion.
(Concussion in Sports – Mike Reinold)