A concussion is considered a form of mild traumatic brain injury acquired from an external force, such as a blow or jolt to the head or body, resulting in altered brain function and processing. It is a condition with growing awareness and recognition, not only in diagnosing, but also in increasing knowledge and appreciation of its impact. Symptoms may include: headache, dizziness, loss of balance, changes in vision, changes in behavior, irritability, fatigue, coordination issues, neck pain, loss of concentration, memory problems, confusion, fogginess, sleep disorders, loss of sense of smell or taste, sensitivity to noise and/or light, nausea, exercise intolerance, and tinnitus (noise or ringing in the ears). In many people, symptoms resolve within 1 month or less, however, in some cases symptoms may remain for several months or longer, and may be referred to as Post-Concussion Syndrome.
Among the most common lingering symptoms are those related to the vestibular system including dizziness and unsteadiness. Impaired vestibular processing may additionally result in difficulty reading, using a computer, tablet, or cell phone, driving, shopping, walking (particularly in dimly lit environments, on uneven surfaces, and in crowds), motion sensitivity, symptoms and/or difficulty turning or changing positions, and increased fatigue.
Individualized vestibular therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for patients suffering with vestibular dysfunction following a concussion.
RETURN TO PLAY
One of the biggest challenges following a concussion in an athlete is determining when it is appropriate to return to sports. Return To Play is a protocol designed by concussion specialists in an attempt to ensure safe return to physical activity and team sports. Concussions should always be taken seriously and it is important that return to activity be professionally guided. A premature return could prolong recovery, cause further or even permanent damage, or in rare circumstances, could even be fatal.
A physician will grant clearance to begin the return to play protocol, typically once the athlete is symptom free for at least 24 hours. The return to play protocol consists of a series of stages involving gradual and controlled incorporation of physical exertion, sports-specific drills, and impact activities. The athlete must remain symptom free for 24 hours prior to progressing to next stage. The protocol typically takes less than 1 week to complete. Following successful symptom free completion of all stages, the athlete may be cleared for return to full participation in sports.