A concussion is a brain injury that can cause a variety of symptoms. A person doesn’t have to be hit in the head or knocked unconscious to have a concussion. It can be caused by a blow to the body, whiplash, or a fall. Most concussions in children resolve in 1-2 weeks, but approximately 30 percent will have symptoms lasting longer than that. Anyone suspected of suffering a concussion, no matter how mild or severe, should see a doctor immediately.
At a recent conference on pediatric concussions I attended, the most current research shows that getting the appropriate treatment for concussion can help speed up the recovery for children. It was previously believed that complete rest for several days was the best approach, but the research shows that isolating children from their peers can be more harmful. Instead of taking them out of school for an extended period of time, it is best to have a gradual return to school as their symptoms improve. The Return to Learn protocol is a five step process that gradually reintegrates the child into full classroom participation.
The same goes for return to sport. It should be a gradual process, incorporating more exercise, as long as the child is symptom free. Full return to sport needs to be cleared by a physician. Returning to sport before all symptoms have resolved can have severe consequences if the child suffers a second concussion. The six steps are:
- Rest until symptom free
- Light exercise
- Sport specific exercise
- Non-contact practice
- Full practice (when cleared by a doctor)
- Return to competition
If the athlete has any symptoms as a result of exercise, they must go back to the previous stage, when they are symptom free. When in doubt, sit them out!
As far as rehabilitation goes, symptoms such as loss of balance and vision problems can be treated with a variety of exercises. Most concussions have associated neck trauma which can also be treated with manual therapy and massage therapy. Dizziness can be addressed with vestibular therapy. Cranio-sacral therapy has been shown to help concussions. At Burlington Sports Therapy, we provide a number of these services, as well as referrals to other health practitioners who are specialized in this area.
While located in Burlington, we treat may people in Oakville, Hamilton, Milton and the surrounding areas.
Madeleine Hunter, CAT(C), RMT
A great app with lots on information on concussions, return to learn, and return to sport is:
CDC Heads Up, available through cdc.gov
www.hollandbloorview.ca/concussion (a concussion handbook)
http://canchild.ca (at McMaster University)
www.obia.ca (the Ontario Brain Injury Association)