Ever suffer from a concussion? Maybe you tripped on the stairs, or were tackled playing football, or were in a car accident. You might remember experiencing a nasty headache, feeling dizzy or confused, and having a hard time standing. But chances are, you recovered without much fanfare.
For the 2.5 million who suffer from a concussion each year, the majority recover within two to three weeks. However, for those who don’t recover in that timeframe they would benefit from physical therapy to improve their condition.
Concussions are a mild form of traumatic brain injury, in which a blow to the head will affect the brain enough to cause symptoms. Falls account for the majority of concussions, followed by being struck by something (like in sports), motor vehicle accidents, and assault.
Fortunately, a comprehensive program for treating post-concussion patients exists, thanks to Point Performance’s Julie Shein, PT, CPT. She spent years developing a highly detailed program to train and certify other physical therapists in a post concussion rehabilitation program.
Through her program, a physical therapist will evaluate three different areas with each concussion patient:
- The musculoskeletal system, to check if any joints, ligaments, and/or muscles have been strained or injured. This traditional physical therapy approach focuses on the potential whiplash injury post concussion.
- The vestibular system, for dizziness and balance. The therapist will work with the patient with a number of exercises to stabilize the eyes, restore balance, and reduce vertigo.
- The cardiovascular system, to increase blood flow to the brain and help speed the healing of the concussion. She’ll monitor heart rate and blood pressure and develop an aerobic exercise prescription for that individual patient.
The patient has to pass a five-step “return-to-play” protocol before he or she is allowed back on the field. The first few steps involve light exercise, tolerating 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, throwing drills and other specific sport-related drills. Step four involves participating in a full practice, and step five is playing the game. The patient has to be symptom-free for 24 hours after the step in order to move on.
If you’re ever hit your head and are feeling unsteady and confused for more than 15 minutes, always have a doctor check you out for any traumatic brain injury. Not being treated may lead to worsening symptoms and further injury, and it’s important to take a break from activity to fully recover.