Disclaimer for todays blog post: If you are currently experiencing concussion symptoms general guidelines suggest to avoid screen time (Via the Canadian Concussion Legacy Foundation), so please consider your state of symptoms and severity of concussion before continuing. Additionally, this article is for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please contact your primary care physician or call our clinic if you need assistance with your personal injury.
Concussions are a common injury that can occur from sports collisions, automotive accidents, and falls. The condition is classified as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and as you have likely heard from the recent media attention, concussions are a serious issue. Specifically, experiencing repeated concussions (especially consecutively – think Sydney Crosby), has been shown to have long-term neurological effects. These long-term effects range from mood disorders, addiction, and even a specific type of dementia referred to as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Short-term, concussions can cause neurological, emotional, and cognitive symptoms which are collectively referred to as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The symptoms include but are not limited to dizziness and loss of balance, slowed reflexes, memory loss, decreased concentration, and vision impairments.
Quick facts about concussion:
- Loss of consciousness is seen in less than 10% of patients with concussions
- Headache and dizziness are the most common symptoms experienced
- Approximately 30% of patients report experiencing long-term symptoms from their concussion, most commonly headaches
- Not being able to sleep after the injury occurs: This is technically incorrect, as sleeping cannot make symptoms of a concussion worse or cause death. However, with any head or neck trauma there is a risk of the condition rapidly deteriorating due to internal bleeding or other severe internal injury. Therefore, the recommendation is to consistently check on someone who is sleeping after the head trauma to assess their cognitive function and ensure their symptoms are not becoming worse. Obviously if a person is asleep, it is not possible to assess this and that is where the myth comes from.
- You have to have physical or blunt force trauma to the head to suffer a concussion: This is also incorrect, many concussions actually occur from the whiplash that happens with a car accident, not from the individual hitting their head. This is because a concussion occurs when the brain is jostled inside the skull in such a way that it causes a brief deformation of the brain itself when it is pressed against the bones of the skull and then rapidly returns to its original position.
What happens when you have experienced a concussion? Typically, you need to be assessed by a primary care physician or a sports-med doctor. They will be able to conduct tests to determine if you have experienced a concussion and the severity of the concussion. The physician can help you determine how much rest you should have before you continue with your activities – especially if you are active in sports (contact or otherwise).
After you are assessed you will need to rest – this means both physically and mentally. General advice from the Canadian Concussion Legacy Foundation suggests that if the activity increases your symptoms, don’t do it. This includes refraining from participating in strenuous exercise and avoiding excessive screen time. Depending on the severity of the injury and your symptoms, it might be appropriate to take time off work or school – again it is important to speak to your physician or other health care provider.
While you rest and as you begin your regular daily activities, keep track of your symptoms. Write down which tasks and movements increase your symptoms, and which decrease them. This will help your health care provider give you the best symptom management advice.
Finally, reach out to friends and family during your recovery. People close to you can help you with daily tasks and provide emotional support. This is also a great time to contact your physiotherapist or other allied health professional (Such as registered massage therapist or kinesiologist).
What can your physiotherapist do to help?
While physiotherapists are best known for their work on the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments that make up our body and create movement), many physios have extensive experience with vestibular therapy. This includes decreasing symptoms of dizziness, improving visual tracking and focus, and helping with mental fatigue. Additionally, postural control is an important part of concussion management which can be easily addressed by your physio. You will also need a plan to return to your daily activity, and a physiotherapist or kinesiologist can help you do so in a safe and realistic way. If you would like to speak to a physiotherapist to further discuss what benefits they can provide you and your specific symptoms book an appointment through our online booking system. Remember that ICBC currently provides coverage for 25 physiotherapy sessions in the immediate 12 weeks following a motor vehicle accident. Give us a call if you have been injured in an MVA – even post 12 weeks, as we can contact your claims support specialist and advocate for treatment on your behalf.
Here are some other helpful web resources:
*Remember if you are currently experiencing Concussion symptoms – don’t spend too much time staring at your screen!
Post- Concussion Syndrome treatments
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