By: Laura B. Ahmed, PT, DPT
Q: What is a concussion?
A: There are a variety of definitions for concussion. A concussion can occur with or without loss of consciousness. It can be a result of a direct or an indirect hit to the head, meaning that impact to the body can also cause a concussion. In general, the traumatic force that causes the concussion creates an increased energy demand by the brain accompanied by decreased blood flow. This causes a ‘metabolic crisis’ and leads to the different symptoms that may occur.
A parent or coach may observe certain behaviors exhibited by an athlete that indicate a potential concussion. These symptoms include confusion, forgetfulness, clumsy movements, slowed responses to questions, behavioral changes, or loss of memory before or after the hit/fall. An athlete may report feeling dizzy, nauseous, feeling off balance, having a headache/pressure in their head, light or noise sensitivity, and in general just not feeling right. If any of these symptoms or behaviors are present, the athlete should be removed from play and assessed by coaching staff and/or an athletic trainer for potential.
A visit to the athlete’s pediatrician may be recommended for ongoing medical management. The pediatrician may order a referral to physical therapy for rehabilitation services, which can include oculomotor and vestibular training, balance training, and orthopedic rehabilitation if a neck injury was sustained during the concussion. Physical therapists can also assist with managing return to play.