In recent years it has become more apparent that any impact to the human body, whether a fall or a bicycle accident, can have more lasting effects than previously thought. Concussions are among the many injuries resulting from trauma that are not physically apparent and are not easily recognized by victims and those around them. Concussion recognition during football, from the little leagues to the professional level, has gained media attention in the past decade. However concussions can also result from accidents, falls, and other types of impact sports. Soccer, hockey, volleyball, and basketball are just a few sports where aggressive play and bodily contact can lead to biomechanical brain injury. Coaches and health practitioners have the ability to help preserve athletic participation and future brain function by recognizing symptoms and by taking the appropriate action to help with healing.
Concussions are often difficult to diagnose without the proper tools and individuals may be reluctant to voice their symptoms. Competitive conditions make players fearful of being sidelined while workers or students may not want to delay projects at hand. Many others underreport or fail to report their symptoms because they lack the knowledge to recognize a true concussion. Players, coaches, and caregivers need to be educated in concussion symptom recognition and how to support these individuals.
Doctors of Physical Therapy are musculoskeletal specialists who can guide individuals and athletes recovering from concussion in a safe transition to daily activities, exercise, and sports. Besides increased risk of a second more severe concussion, there exist other post-concussive risks that can be detrimental to a person’s well-being. Recent studies by Herman et al. (2016) and Gilbert et al (2016), have demonstrated a relationship between concussion history and lower extremity injuries in athletes. One concussion can disrupt a person’s balance and equilibrium as well as their strength and mobility. When this is paired with subsequent lower extremity injury, a repeating cycle is created where rest, muscle atrophy, and decreased mobility contribute to re-injury and further physical decline. Physical Therapy eliminates this cycle by targeting strength, endurance, and balance deficits in the core, hips, knees, and ankles that persist after concussion. With an individualized rehabilitation program provided by a trained Physical Therapist, a patient recovering from concussion can return to function and return to their sport with confidence and decreased risk of future injury.
Elizabeth Lamontagne PT, DPT, SCS, CKTP
Staff Physical Therapist at Recovery Physical Therapy
Herman, D.C. Jones, D. Harrison, A., Moser, M., Tillman, S., Farmer, K., …Chmielewski, T. L. (2016). Concussion May Increase the Risk of Subsequent Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Injury in Collegiate Athletes. Sports Medicine. Doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0607-9.
Gilbert, F.C., Burdette, G.T., Joyner, A.B., Llewellyn, T.A., Buckley, T.A. Association Between Concussion and Lower Extremity Injuries in Collegiate Athletes. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 2016;8(6):561-567. Doi: 10.1177/1941738116666509.