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May 28, 2015

What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. A fall, or blow to the body can also cause concussion due to rapid movement of the brain within the skull. Concussions are usually considered a “mild” injury, however the effects may be serious and lasting. Some of the most common causes of concussion include falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports related injury, and assault.

Symptoms of a concussion
Symptoms of a concussion generally fall under 4 categories: Physical, Emotional, Cognitive and Sleep.

  • Physical: Headache, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light/noise, blurred vision, dizziness, balance problems, neck pain
  • Emotional: More emotional, irritability, sadness, anxiety
  • Cognitive: Feeling slowed down, “in a fog,” difficulty concentrating or remembering, confusion
  • Sleep: Sleeping more, or less, than usual

Symptoms can last days, weeks, or longer.  Recovery may take longer in children, teens, and older adults. Those who have had concussion in the past are at greater risk for future concussion, and may take longer to recover.

Rest is very important after a concussion to allow the brain to heal. Healing will take time, and one should return to normal daily activities only after symptoms have reduced significantly. If symptoms return, or new symptoms begin, you may be resuming activities too quickly. Try to avoid activities that put you at risk for another concussion, as those with more than one generally experience more long-term effects.

How can Physical Therapy help?
When symptoms subside, your physical therapist can assist you in progression of activities to get you to your prior level of function, or return to sport for athletes. For older adults, balance therapy and gait training are important aspect of rehab to reduce risk for falls and future concussion. Dizziness is often associated with TBI, and is commonly due to inner ear dysfunction. In such cases, one may benefit from vestibular rehab in addition to balance therapy. Any musculoskeletal issues such as neck pain, muscle strain, tension headaches, etc. will also be address by your physical therapist. Participating in a comprehensive rehab program following concussion has been shown to get athletes back to sport sooner than those who do not participate in a rehab program.


NCPTA 2013 Fall Conference Lecture by Corina Martinez and Michael Essa: Concussion Discussion: Comprehensive Concussion Management for Physical Therapists

--C Giles, PT (Spartanburg clinic)

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