Did you know that you do not have to have a loss of consciousness in order to sustain an injury to the brain? Nor do you have to be a professional athlete. Between 1.4 and 3.6 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year, with the majority happening at the high school level. Studies even estimate 10-19 percent of all athletes involved in contact sports sustain a concussion each season.
If you have concerns regarding yourself or a family member that may have suffered a concussion, it’s important to contact a certified caregiver as soon as possible. Physical therapists at ESSMC are able to evaluate and treat many of the symptoms and problems related to concussions including balance, visual movements, hand-eye coordination, and vestibular function. Our experts would be glad to provide care and support when and where it’s most convenient for you. Contact us to meet us in one of our 7 convenient office locations - ESSMC Monroeville, ESSMC Murrysville, ESSMC North Huntingdon, ESSMC Penn Hills, ESSMC Penn Township, or ESSMC Plum.
A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body. They can occur during athletic practice or game competition as well as with falls or auto accidents. They can occur even if the person does not lose consciousness.
Concussions are serious because they change the way a person’s brain functions. They result in the rapid onset of short-lived impairments of neurological function due to the disruption of normal brain cellular activity. The sudden movement of the brain causes stretching and tearing of brain tissues, damaging the cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.
Usually, they resolve spontaneously over days to weeks. But once this injury occurs, the brain is vulnerable to further injury, and is very sensitive to any increased stress until it fully recovers.
Should an athlete take a blow to the head of any kind, the athlete should immediately tell the athletic trainer, coach, and parents that he/she has been injured. The athlete should be removed from practice/competition and not be permitted to return to play that day. And the coach should never allow an athlete to return to participation until cleared by a physician.
It is recommended that a player has mental rest for 2-3 days before seeing a concussion doctor. Resting for the first few days is critical to allow the brain to begin the healing process. If the brain is overstimulated during the early phases of recovery, the concussion may take longer to heal. Fortunately, most concussions heal with rest and time.
Physical, cognitive, emotional, and social rest are advised while the athlete is experiencing signs/symptoms of a concussion. Parents are advised to minimize your child’s mental exertion, limit overstimulation, and limit their cell phone and video game use.
Some concussion cases require more than rest and examinations. Seek emergency care if you or your child experience:
Physical therapists at ESSMC are able to evaluate and treat many of the symptoms and problems related to concussions including balance, visual movements, hand-eye coordination, and vestibular function.
Vestibular therapy is an important component of recovery from a concussion, as the vestibular system is responsible for sensing head movement, maintaining eye focus when you move your head, and balance. Similarly, these head and eye movements will often reproduce or worsen concussion symptoms and therefore must be monitored and treated appropriately. Neck problems such as stiffness, soreness, headaches, and generalized neck pain may result following a concussion.
We treat these deficits to further assist in concussion recovery. Our physical therapists become a key component of an athlete’s ability to return to their sport. The therapist in combination with the physician and athletic trainer will progress the athlete through a Return to Play protocol involving a graded exercise approach.
For baseline testing at ESSMC, we use an innovative iPad application (C3 Logix) that was developed by the Cleveland Clinic and used by physicians in the Allegheny Health Network Sports Concussion Clinic. This comprehensive app tests and assesses symptoms, reaction time, memory and processing time, motor function, vision, and balance. This is the only concussion management tool that thoroughly tests all of the areas of the brain that can be affected by a concussion. Contact Michael Tardio, DPT, ATC for more information by email Michael@essmc.com or phone 412-856-8060 x 113.
The return to play protocol is administered by the athletic trainer and is a six step process that gradually adds higher level activities to the athlete recovering from their concussion. The athlete will be cleared by their physician to begin the protocol once they are asymptomatic and their C3 Logix tests are back to baseline. The goal of the protocol is to challenge the body and brain and to see if the activity will cause the athlete’s symptoms to return. Once the athlete can perform all steps of the protocol without symptoms, the physician will take this information and use it to determine their clearance for return to sport.
Continuing to play with concussion signs/symptoms can slow brain recovery and result in permanent injury. Second Impact Syndrome occurs when an athlete sustains an initial concussion and then sustains a second head injury before symptoms from the first have fully resolved. This can result in a catastrophic injury which is why a player needs to be removed from participation and not returned until released by a physician.