Concussion is perhaps one of humanity’s most common injuries. Especially in the sporting world.
Nobody is immune to concussions, and it’s impossible to completely prevent them when suffering an accident or sporting head injury.
According to estimates, almost 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur every 12 months in the United States.
It’s also estimated that 10% of athletes in contact sports sustain concussions more than once per year.
The movies may showcase concussions as nothing to worry about, but they can be deadly serious. Brain injuries cause more deaths in sports men and women than any other type of injury.
For example, brain injuries account for between 65-95% of fatalities on pitch with professional soccer players - every 5.5 games witnesses a concussion.
When it comes to boxing, no less than 87% of professional boxers have sustained a brain injury.
Concussions are so serious because of the vital organ that it affects - our brain. If your brain sustains a traumatic injury, it can then lead to catastrophic consequences.
If the left side of the brain is injured, then it can cause problems with speech, logic, and understanding others.
Should the right side of your brain suffer trauma, the person can suffer from problems processing visual information, while also struggling to perform regular daily tasks.
It can have a devastating impact on an individual’s ability to live independently.
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So, Is A Concussion Dangerous?
If someone develops a concussion after a fall or a blow to the head that causes a rapid ‘back and forth’ movement, doctors and healthcare professionals will most likely describe these injuries as ‘mild’. That’s because concussions are not usually life-threatening.
Even if that’s the diagnosis, the effects can be serious. Severe concussions can lead to a bleed on the brain, or a swelling, that can prove fatal.
It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to keep watch over a person who has suffered a concussion throughout the 48 hours post-event. If the symptoms worsen, it's time to call 911.
However, regardless of severity, a concussion can lead to a change of life.
And that’s where you may need help from a physical therapist. Let’s take a deeper look into what a concussion means, and how we can assist you when the time comes.
What Is Concussion?
Concussion is a complex injury that usually stems from a very sudden and sharp impact to the head.
Although gaining the injury can take only a split second, recovery usually takes place over an extended time and requires expert guidance throughout.
Concussion often results from unexpected trauma within sports, a nasty fall or a car accident.
The term concussion covers a wide array of temporary physical and mental impairments that result from the initial impact.
Concussion is very common within contact sports, including soccer, rugby and hockey and accounts for almost 4 million reports of the injury per year in the US alone.
A sudden impact to the head causes the brain to be thrust against the skull, usually bringing with it a temporary loss of consciousness as well as damaging the tissues that hold the brain in place.
Afterwards, concussion can present as a variety of problematic symptoms for some time post-impact.
The most frequently reported symptoms include notable headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, impaired coordination and blurred vision.
Difficulty in sleeping while simultaneously being unusually sensitive to light and sound are also common.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the joy that is a severe hangover, you’ll be able to relate to those last two symptoms rather well!
In more severe episodes of concussion, someone’s speech may slur alongside uncharacteristic confusion as well as problems with memory, anxiety, mood swings and seizures.
Each individual’s experience of concussion tends to be unique, meaning that treatment needs to be specifically tailored to fit problems as and when they arise.
Tackling The Misunderstanding Of How Concussion Is Nothing Physical
It is a common misunderstanding that, because concussion is most usually categorized as a head injury, it is not the same as a physical injury and therefore it is unlikely to fall within a physical therapist’s remit. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth!
Concussion is very much a physical injury - even if some of the effects are cognitive, they have been caused by a physical injury and require an understanding of how the physical translates into the cognitive and vice versa.
This is precisely where physical therapists excel and working one-on-one with a physical therapist in the clinic can be an excellent pathway to recovery and comes highly recommended.
Physical Therapists Possess Expert Knowledge on Concussion
Here at Cardin & Miller, we don’t tend to see the consequences of concussion all too often but, when we do, it is imperative that appropriate treatment is administered and with suitable timing.
If someone who has incurred concussion tries to return to their usual activities too quickly, not only can this significantly hamper overall recovery but worryingly, it can also lead to permanent issues.
Successful recovery from concussion requires an expert approach from initial impact to fully getting back to normal. It is a gradual process that requires patience, tolerance and time.
This is where a knowledgeable physical therapist proves priceless in aiding someone else’s recovery. We are involved right from the initial post-concussion assessments, all of which aim to identify the various problems that may have been caused by a concussion.
Our numerous tests relate to muscle strength, coordination, balance, sight, smell, hearing, and memory.
These help us to build a comprehensive picture of what’s gone wrong and why as well as formulate a plan for getting a concussion patient back on course.
From there, not only can a physical therapist work on any physical injury that has occurred within the neck and upper back, a physical therapist is also an expert in tackling problems with balance and co-ordination as well as visual difficulties.
It’s why we are frequently called upon by those suffering from the unpleasant effects of vertigo for there are many similarities.
We specialize in vestibular rehabilitation, which can assist concussion patients who continue to feel dizzy or off-balance in the days and weeks following their injury.
Those affected by a concussion often report difficulty with vision and an inability to track objects.
If following examination, there are no cognitive red flags that would warrant a visit to a neurologist, our physical therapists can provide oculomotor exercises, performed in a controlled environment, to slowly retrain you for being able to tolerate complex moving visual environments.
Among many potential avenues of physical treatment that we can offer for concussion, we can provide massage therapy to ease out strained muscles and ligaments as well as oculomotor exercises to retrain the visual system.
Alongside activities such as these, we will gradually move a concussion patient into progressive reintroduction to movement and exercise, comprising mainly of gentle stretching and strengthening movements.
How We Minimize The Symptoms Of Concussion
We work to keep any uncomfortable symptoms that may result (e.g., nausea and dizziness) to an absolute minimum.
Overloading the brain during activity post-concussion interferes with the healing of the brain tissue, and can bring symptoms back. Your physical therapist will therefore work to ensure overload of the brain and nervous system is avoided as activity levels increase.
We understand that trying to be physically active after concussion is incredibly challenging and therefore disheartening and all too easy to avoid.
It’s not an imagined condition, what you’ll be experiencing is known as exercise intolerance and we understand how miserable it can feel.
However, exercise remains just as important to overall health as it ever was before concussion happened, so we encourage patients to reintroduce exercise into their routine while doing so in a guided, controlled and safe manner.
Slowly but surely, exercise also has the power to allow patients to regain their full cognitive function as before the concussion injury.
Exercise increases both blood flow and stimulates protein formation, both of which are conducive to good brain health.
It is often an athlete who is in need of treatment for concussion and as such, there will be a need and desire to maintain physical condition throughout the concussion recovery.
Here, a physical therapist can greatly assist in maintaining fitness and condition through a structured program, carried out in a safe manner while recuperation is ongoing.
Throughout the entire recovery, we closely monitor how our concussion patients are improving, adjusting our many treatments and exercise programs throughout.
We understand that recovering from concussion can be a daunting and unnerving experience and we always aim to provide the much-needed emotional support alongside the more traditional physical treatments.
What Can You Take Away From All Of This?
When it comes to recovering from concussions, our overall goal is to return you to normal life and full physical and mental functioning in the safest and most effective way possible.
Recovering from concussion is a delicate balancing act between pushing for recovery and giving your brain the time it needs to heal properly.
This is where our ability to tailor an individual, post-concussion treatment plan proves invaluable and we will work with you step-by-step, all the way.
Contact us now and see how we can help you!