A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can occur as a result of a blow to the head, face, neck, or even body. Concussions can range from mild to severe, and may cause a variety of symptoms that can last for days, weeks, or even months. Recognising the signs and symptoms of a concussion is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Physiotherapists play an important role in helping patients recover after a concussion as concussions can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s health and quality of life. At Revive Spine and Sport Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton, our physiotherapists are trained in concussion management and treatment. Discover more about how our physiotherapy team can support recovery after a concussion.
What Is A Concussion?
Any forceful contact to the head, face, neck, or body that causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth inside the skull can cause a concussion. This movement can affect brain function, leading to a variety of symptoms, from physical to emotional.
Concussions can occur from a wide range of activities, such as sports, motor vehicle accidents, falls, and assaults. While most concussions are mild and do not result in long-term damage, repeated concussions or severe concussions can lead to serious complications.
Signs And Symptoms Of Concussion Edmonton
After a concussion, a range of signs and symptoms can develop. The severity of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and the extent of the injury. Some people may only experience a few mild concussion symptoms, while others may experience major concussion symptoms that affect their daily activities and quality of life.
Symptoms of concussion can be categorized into three main categories: physical, cognitive, and emotional. These are explained in more detail:
Physical Concussion Symptoms
Physical symptoms are physical manifestations of the injury caused to the brain. These include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Sensory issues
- Balance issues
- Poor coordination
- Altered mobility
Cognitive Concussion Symptoms
Cognitive symptoms affect cognitive function. These include:
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Feeling confused
- Slowed thinking
- Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
These symptoms can be particularly challenging for people who are working or studying as they impair cognitive function.
Emotional Concussion Symptoms
Emotional symptoms are less well known, but can have a widespread effect on overall well-being. These include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Becoming easily angered
- Fluctuating mood
Not all people with a concussion will exhibit all or any of these symptoms. However, early identification is crucial to categorise symptoms of a concussion for aiding in diagnosis and management.
Additionally, there may be concussion symptoms that indicate a more serious underlying issue is at play after the injury. Red flag symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Vision or hearing changes
- Severe or unrelenting headaches
- Seizures or convulsions
- Slurred speech
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness or weakness
If any of these symptoms occur, or if there are any unexplained or severe symptoms, it’s vital to seek urgent medical attention for investigation and treatment.
How Long Do Concussion Symptoms Last?
The duration of concussion symptoms can vary depending on various factors such as the severity of the injury, age, and the history of the person affected. In general, most people will experience symptoms for a few days to a few weeks after a concussion.
However, it is important to note that symptoms of a concussion may not appear immediately and can take several hours or days to develop. In some cases, symptoms may not appear until weeks or months after the injury has occurred. This is why it is important to seek medical attention immediately after a head injury, even if no symptoms are present.
While concussion symptoms usually resolve within a few weeks, some people may have symptoms that persist for several weeks or even months, known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Long-term symptoms may include persistent headaches, ongoing dizziness or vertigo, increased sensitivity to light or sound, changes in sleeping patterns, and chronic pain.
The symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can have a widespread impact on health, work, and overall quality of life. Early and consistent treatment is critical to help manage ongoing symptoms of a concussion, including physiotherapy.
Physiotherapy Treatment For Concussion Symptoms
With the right treatment, concussion symptoms typically resolve within 7-10 days. However, physiotherapy can be an effective treatment for concussion symptoms, particularly for those experiencing balance and coordination issues, dizziness, or mobility issues. Additionally, those experiencing delayed or long-term symptoms after a concussion may benefit from physiotherapy for reconditioning and returning to normal daily activities.
Here are some common physiotherapy interventions that may be used to treat concussion symptoms:
- Rest: Rest is a mainstay treatment for concussion. As concussion is a form of mild brain injury, it's critical to give time for the brain and body to rest. A physiotherapist can provide guidance on how to rest effectively to allow the brain and body to heal properly.
- Activity modification: After a concussion, it’s important to avoid activities that may make any symptoms worse. For example, a period of rest away from sport can help promote healing as strenuous activity can aggravate symptoms like headaches or balance issues. Additionally, avoiding activities like watching TV can also be beneficial to prevent further dizziness or brain fog. Returning to work or sports too early can delay recovery, so it’s important to follow the guidance of the medical team.
- Vestibular rehabilitation: Concussions can negatively affect balance, coordination, and mobility. Vestibular rehabilitation is a type of physiotherapy that is used to treat balance issues. This treatment targets the vestibular system – the system in the body responsible for balance which includes the vestibular apparatus, vestibular nerves, and the brain. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy includes exercises that help to improve balance and coordination, reduce dizziness and vertigo, and improve overall mobility.
- Exercise therapy: Physiotherapist exercises that promote cardiovascular fitness and strength training can help recondition the body after a concussion. The right exercises prescribed at the right dose by the physiotherapist can be used to treat symptoms like fatigue and improve overall physical function. A physiotherapist can regress or progress the exercises as needed to maximize the effect.
- Manual therapy: Concussion can have a widespread effect on the body. Manual therapy may be used by the physiotherapist to help manage concussion symptoms. This may involve hands-on techniques, such as massage or joint mobilization, to improve mobility and reduce pain.
- Education: A physiotherapist can also educate patients on the importance of rest and gradual return to activities, as well as provide information to help manage symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, and mood changes at work and home.
The physiotherapist will monitor all symptoms closely to identify any changes or regressions. In some cases, they may liaise with the medical team for further input or investigations. Medications may be prescribed by a doctor in conjunction with physiotherapy to manage symptoms such as headaches or nausea. If symptoms persist or worsen, a further medical evaluation may be necessary as well.
Preventing Concussion Symptoms
When it comes to concussion symptoms, prevention is the best strategy. While it is not always possible to prevent a concussion, there are several ways to minimize the risk, including using protective equipment, safe playing practices, and education.
Protective Equipment For Concussion Prevention
Where appropriate, it may be beneficial to use protective equipment during sports to prevent concussions. For example, helmets are commonly used in sports like rugby and cricket to help prevent contact injuries to the head. Different types of helmets may be used, depending on the sport. It’s also critical to properly fit, maintain, and certify the standards for helmet use.
Additionally, other protective equipment may include mouthguards and eye protection.
Safe Playing Practices For Concussion Prevention
Safe playing practices are rules that help regulate sports and minimize the risk of injury to athletes. This may include avoiding high-risk activities or high-risk maneuvers, such as a high tackle. Safe playing practices also include safety guidelines on proper technique and form.
Education For Concussion Prevention
Finally, education is a critical factor in concussion prevention. Informing athletes about prevention strategies for concussions can help reduce risk during sports. Education may include information on understanding concussions, early recognition of symptoms, the importance of reporting symptoms, prevention, and awareness of the long-term effects of concussion. The information should be shared not just with athletes, but also coaches, parents, and healthcare workers.
These strategies can help minimize the risk of injury and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience during sports and other activities. This can also help reduce the incidence and severity of concussion symptoms.
Proper Concussion Management Is Vital
Concussions are not something to take lightly. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion is crucial for early assessment and treatment. This can help prevent complications and long-term health consequences such as post-concussion syndrome.
For anyone that experiences a head injury, seek medical attention immediately and monitor symptoms closely. With proper care and attention, most people with concussions can recover fully and resume their normal activities.
CDC. Concussion signs and symptoms. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_symptoms.html
Physiopedia. Concussion. Available from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Concussion
NHS. Concussion. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/head-and-neck-injuries/concussion