The Role of the Physical Therapist in Post-Concussion Management

 

 

In our blog on Signs of Concussion in Youth Athletes, it became evident that a concussion can result in a wide variety of negative signs and symptoms. Following such an injury, many young athletes are eager to return to their sport. However, complete physical and mental rest are the best things to help the brain recover, and are absolutely necessary during the first 24 hours following a concussion. A physical therapist can be an integral member of the child’s concussion management team in preparing the child to return to sport, or in helping to address impairments resulting from the concussion that may be limiting the child’s school or daily functioning. Below is a list of interventions a physical therapist may be able to provide to a child who suffered a concussion injury:

  • Girl with headacheManagement of neck pain or cervicogenic headache: A cervicogenic headache is one that is caused by injury or tightness in the neck muscles or due to limitations in mobility of the neck joints. Since these structures attach to your skull, impairments there can result in headaches. Your physical therapist can help with manual therapy and exercises to increase mobility of these structures in order to alleviate headaches.
  • Balance and coordination training: It is very common to have balance or coordination difficulties following a concussion. A physical therapist can help to re-train and strengthen these systems in order to restore function.
  • Graded return to physical activity: When your child has been cleared by the pediatrician to return to physical activity, the physical therapist can help with a gradual return to activity while closely monitoring concussion symptoms. It is important to ease back into exercise starting with light aerobic activities before participating in moderate or intense physical activities or sport-specific training.
  • Gradual return to specific sport: Once the athlete has returned to aerobic exercise with no worsening of symptoms, the physical therapist can then begin to introduce sport-specific training drills and gradual return to practice and competition.

It is important to note that your child should be closely monitored by your pediatrician or primary care physician initially following the injury, as well as frequently throughout your child’s course of treatment. Your physical therapist should also update your pediatrician with your child’s symptoms and response with return to physical activity. Please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists if your child has recently suffered a concussion or continues to suffer from post-concussion impairments.