Concussion & Post-Concussion Syndrome

What is a concussion? A concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is a common injury that may cause impairments in brain function.¹ Now often described as a public health crisis due to its increasing occurrence, concussion most often occurs as a result of a blow to the head that causes a rapid, jarring brain movement within the skull.

Forces from injuries to the head (such as those suffered in sports or in falls) can “slosh” the brain back and forth, which causes the brain to be pulled and stretched in a way that leads to widespread injury and results in various debilitating symptoms.2, 3


What Are Initial Signs and Symptoms of Concussion?
Signs and symptoms of concussion will be noticeable at the onset of the injury. Many athletes experience difficulty recalling events prior to or after a hit or fall. They appear to be dazed or stunned, they might even forget instructions or where they are. If you notice someone has lost consciousness, shows mood or behavior changes, or is moving slowly they should stop their activity or play and seek help. More serious symptoms, include vomiting, blurry vision, dizziness, being bothered by light or sound, or just not feeling “right”. Again, we advise coaches, parents, and athletes to monitor players to seek professional help immediately.

What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Most concussion symptoms will improve within 7-10 days if the patient is able to adequately rest (physical and mental rest is very important within this time frame). However, for a number of reasons, some people may experience symptoms for much longer. If symptoms persist for longer than 10 days, post-concussion syndrome (PCS) may have developed.

Symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome include:

  1. Cognitive deficits (memory, attention, and concentration difficulty)
  2. Fatigue, sleep disturbance/insomnia
  3. Headache, dizziness
  4. Irritability, personality changes

Physical Therapy and Post-Concussion Syndrome
While the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome may be debilitating, physical therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment that allows a patient to return to daily life and sport.3 For athletes, research has shown that those who participate in active rehabilitation like PT are four times more likely to return to sport in eight weeks than those who did not. Physical therapy for PCS will include several individualized exercises and techniques aimed at reducing a patient’s specific symptoms and limitations. Exercises may be targeted to address dizziness, cognitive deficits, aerobic limitations, and associated neck pain, among others.4

Excel Physical Therapy has many physical therapists with certifications and experience treating those with concussions. If you suspect that you or someone else may be suffering from acute or long-standing concussion symptoms, you should consult with your physician and/or a sports medicine specialist, and ask about a referral to physical therapy. A call to your local Excel Physical Therapy office can help point you in the necessary direction.


By Andrew Bacon, PT, DPT, Washington Square Clinic


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