Physical Therapy Plays a Crucial Role in Post-Concussion Treatment

By Western Berks on October 20th, 2018

The critically acclaimed film Concussion has brought the subject of concussion into a new light for athletes across the United States. In the public health exposé, Will Smith portrays a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fights the National Football League’s efforts to bury research on the brain damage suffered by its players.

Now that concussion awareness is enjoying its time in the limelight, it’s up to athletes, coaches and parents to recognize the injury’s signs and symptoms and immediately pursue an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. Although concussions can occur in any sport, the high school sports with the highest concussion rates include boys’ football and ice hockey and girls’ soccer and lacrosse.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, reported concussion rates have increased at all levels of sports participation during the last few years. Improved diagnostic strategies and increased disclosure by student athletes contribute, in part, to this phenomenon.

Physical therapists specializing in post-concussion treatment can evaluate and treat this type of traumatic brain injury. A physical therapist begins with a full evaluation and a thorough patient history. Contrary to popular belief, MRIs and CT scans do not detect brain abnormality, even in patients exhibiting concussion symptoms.

A physical therapist asks the patient a series of questions to identify symptoms and performs strength, coordination, balance, sight, smell, hearing, and memory tests to establish a treatment plan. Throughout treatment, the physical therapist frequently repeats the same questions and tests to gauge the patient’s progress and determine a safe return to work, school, athletics, and other activities.

Experts suggest parents initiate open dialogue with their children to build awareness of the signs and symptoms of concussion. Young athletes in particular need to understand the long-term consequences of a concussion so they learn to speak up when exhibiting signs of an injury.

Research suggests that suffering multiple concussions can have a compounding effect. A study appearing in the American Journal of Sports Medicine titled “Concussion Symptoms and Neurocognitive Performance of High School and College Athletes Who Incur Multiple Concussions” drew a connection between multiple concussions and prolonged symptoms, recovery time, and risk for future concussions.