Concussion Facts

Understand what's happening with your brain.

What is a Concussion? 

Put simply, a concussion (otherwise known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)) is an injury to your brain is brought about by fast, jarring jolt to the brain. There are a number of possible situations where this can happen: 

  • A blow to the head (in contact sports) 
  • Severe shaking of the head (like when you fall down)
  • Coming to a rapid stop (like in a car accident). 

Remember that brain is housed within the cranium (aka your skull) and when you experience a blow to the head or a jarring movement your brain can move and twist with your cranium resulting in injury to your brain. 

Soccer Player

80-90% of concussions resolve within 7-10 days.

– Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport – the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012

What are the Symptoms of a Concussion? 

Even though there are a number of different classification systems that have been developed over the years for concussions there has been consensus that these systems are often lacking and offer little assistance in understanding the prognosis of someone with a concussion.   

Let's breakdown the symptoms you can experience with a concussion. We've put together this visual to show how symptoms can intersect in creating your concussion experience. 

Concussion Facts

Physical Symptoms

Physical concussion symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Visual problems
  • Dizziness
  • Noise and/or light sensitivity
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Balance problems

Emotional Changes

Emotional changes can include feeling more irritable than normal as well as a general increased level of nervousness. As well, you could feel more emotional; experiencing daily mood swings or a sense of sadness. 

Mental Changes

Not only can you experience physical and emotional changes with a concussion, you can also experience cognitive/mental changes; these include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Fogginess or drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering facts and people
  • Slower mental "processing"

Altered Sleep

Unfortunately your sleeping pattern can also be affected by a concussion. You may have more difficulty falling asleep, and your sleeping time may fluctuate causing you to sleep or shorter or longer than normal. 

What Should I Do After a Concussion?

Let's remember that a concussion is an injury to the brain. Just like a strained muscle needs rest, so does your brain after a concussion. 

Rest is the cornerstone to an acute concussion. When your acute symptoms have resolved you can then begin a graduated increase of activity under medical supervision before getting back to your return to full sport and activity. New research reaffirms the value in multi-modal physical therapy techniques as well as specific and progressive exercise protocols for concussion rehabilitation. 

Listening to your body and what it's telling you is important to avoid delaying your long term recovery. 

Experts all agree that you shouldn't get back on the field the day of a concussion.

– Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport – the 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in Zurich, November 2012

What Does Graduated Return to Sport Look Like?

Getting back to sport or work after a concussion can be a challenging process. You may wonder if you're pushing yourself too hard or too little. And sometimes our self-assessment of our symptoms can be tricky. 

The rehabilitation of a concussion with a focus on graduated return to sport would start from no activity (rest) to light aerobic activity such as biking or walking. During this time it is important to avoid any recurrence of concussion related symptoms. For most people this would consist of no return of headaches. 

From there we progress to sport-specific exercise while avoiding any head contact of any kind. More complex training skills can be incorporated if you are progressing well. 

A return to full contact play should only be considered once you've been cleared by a qualified medical professional. 


How Can Concussion Physiotherapy Help?

So if rest is so important to recovery, why would you need concussion physiotherapy? Good question!

While rest is an important first step, evidence suggests that both too much and too little rest can have negative effects on physical, emotional and mental symptoms. This could actually delay your recovery.

Returning back to normal life, including a full and safe return to sport and work, is not always simple. Every concussion is unique and concussion physiotherapy seeks to understand the features of your specific concussion injury.

We apply the latest research to our clinical assessment and treatment process. Our thorough evaluation can uncover the physical impacts of  your injury to ensure that you receive a treatment program that helps give you full  resolution of your symptoms and function.

Addressing your symptoms is important but we go a step further and make sure that your vestibular and balance systems as well as your cognitive  and cervical functioning have returned to normal and expected values.  

We want you to have the confidence that there are no lingering issues affected by your concussion injury. By treating the whole person, you can be confident that you have minimized any potential long term effects from the concussion. 

“The care of athletes with sports concussion is ideally performed by a healthcare professional with specific training and experience in the assessment and management of concussion. Competence should be determined by training and experience, not dictated by specialty.”

- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement: Concussion in sport 
Harmon KG, Drezner JA, Gammons M, et al. Br J Sports Med2013, 47, 15-26

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