A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is sometimes experienced after a blow, bump, or jolt to the head. While this type of head trauma is well-known to occur in contact-heavy sports such as football, concussions can also occur from a (vehicle) accident or striking one’s head after a fall. Understanding what a concussion entails and recognizing its associated symptoms, are important first steps in resolving this potentially very serious issue.

What Happens During a Concussion?

The human skull provides significant protection to the brain, however, even a bony skull cannot provide complete protection against hard blows to the head or the body. A significant blow or fall can cause a person’s brain to rapidly shift back and forth inside the skull. These internal bouncing and/or twisting movements can lead to chemical changes within the brain, along with the potential stretching and/or damage to brain cells.

Concussion Symptoms

It’s very important to recognize the symptoms associated with a concussion since more serious cases require immediate treatment. Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired vision
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Loss of memory
  • Headaches
  • Slurred speech
  • Behavior/personality changes
  • Increased sensitivity to light (including computer and phone screens)
  • Difficulty with motor coordination and balance
  • Lastly, loss of consciousness (in serious cases)

Sometimes symptoms may not appear for hours or even days after an injury. Monitor anyone who says they “feel fine” after receiving a significant blow to the head. Conversely, those who experience symptoms right away may continue to experience a myriad of symptoms for hours, days, weeks, or even months after their injury.

Either way, it’s important for anyone who recently received a blow to the head, to seek prompt medical attention if they begin to develop any of these symptoms.

Classifying Concussions

In order to facilitate treatment, the American Academy of Neurology classifies concussions into three different tiers, ranging from mild to severe.

  • Grade I — A Grade I concussion is a concussion in its mildest form. A person who experiences a Grade I concussion won’t lose consciousness, although they may experience some mild symptoms like confusion. The symptoms associated with a Grade I concussion will typically resolve within 15 minutes after becoming injured.
  • Grade II — A Grade II concussion is labeled as a moderate concussion. At this level, the injured person remains conscious. However, their initial symptoms become more pronounced than those experienced in a Grade I concussion. In addition, a Grade II concussion means the injured person will experience symptoms beyond 15 minutes after the event of injury.
  • Grade III — Any person who experiences any amount of unconsciousness after a blow to the head is considered to have a Grade III (serious) concussion. Professionals consider this form of severe concussion as a medical emergency. Thus, the injured person should be transported to a hospital for immediate treatment.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Concussions

As mentioned previously, some patients experience symptoms for weeks or even months. In order to facilitate healing, some patients are referred to a physical therapist for treatment of symptoms such as generalized pain, headaches, dizziness, difficulty with motor coordination and balance, and/or residual neck pain.

Depending upon a patient’s residual symptoms, a physical therapist may employ a variety of treatments and exercises designed to accomplish any or all of the following: restoration of equilibrium by improving motor coordination and overall balance and/or treatment for generalized pain/headaches/dizziness/neck pain. Physical therapy treatments for concussion symptoms may include:

  • Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Vestibular ocular (eye) reflex exercises
  • Visual tracking exercises
  • Dynamic balance exercises
  • Generalized strengthening of key muscles
  • Lastly, assistance in returning to sports training (for athletes)

Conclusion

If you or someone you know is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion, we can help. Please call Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab at 570-208-2787 today.