Early physical therapy following a sports-related concussion is shown to improve recovery time by 60%. Ninety percent of concussions resolve within 2-3 weeks, but for the 10% that do not, there are often impairments of the vestibular, ocular, cervical, and/or autonomic systems. These are all systems that a physical therapist who is trained in concussion or vestibular therapy can address.
Vestibular refers to the system that controls balance and awareness of the body’s position in space. Ocular refers to eye movement control and processing of visual information. The autonomic system includes both the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems. The cervical spine refers to the neck and the surrounding neuromuscular components.
A physical therapist will perform an initial evaluation, which will include taking a history and examination. The examination will consist of a series of clinical tests that both screen and assess all above symptoms. If any red flags are identified that are outside the scope physical therapy, you will be referred to the appropriate provider. Based on the findings of the exam, the PT will determine a treatment plan that is individualized to the patient. On average, 1-2 weekly sessions for 4-8 weeks is appropriate, and usually includes a home exercise program.
A baseline test is an an important tool during the pre-season of any sport. In the event of a concussion, the baseline allows for much more effective management of a potential brain injury. The test takes around 30 minutes, and includes an online ImPACT test, King-Devick, cognitive testing, balance, reaction time, and strength baselines. You will be part of a National Data Base and can seek follow-up and treatment at any CCMI affiliated clinic.