Understanding the how's, why's and what you need to know about concussions.
Parents often ask, "Why should I book my child for a concussion baseline" or "What can physiotherapy do for a concussion"? Other questions parents ask are if the doctor says to rest for a period of time, why should additional protocols be considered. This blog will discuss what is a concussion, how baseline tests assist in making decisions for successful return to work/school and sport, and what the components are for a Complete Concussion protocol.
Concussions have gained significant attention in recent years due to their potential long-term effects on brain health. To effectively diagnose, manage, and treat concussions, Complete Concussion has developed a comprehensive approach that includes baseline testing and treatment protocols developed by evidenced-base, peer review research.
"Diagnostics were negative, so I don't think I have a concussion."
It is crucial to first understand concussions. Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries that occur as a result of a direct or indirect blow to the head or body, causing the brain to move rapidly within the skull and stretch or shear the neurons. This movement can lead to various symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, memory problems, and emotional disturbances. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of concussions is vital for early detection and proper management. Concussion are nearly impossible to detect through traditional diagnostics like CAT or MRI as the injury involves metabolic changes to the brain cell activity versus visible lesions.
"What should I look for in a concussion baseline test?"
Concussion can happen in all areas of the brain. Using one or two baseline tests only gives a healthcare provider limited tools to help diagnosis and conclude when it is safe to return to work and playing sports. Baseline testing developed by Complete Concussion involves a comprehensive assessment of an individual's cognitive, physical, and balance functions when they are healthy, serving as a reference point for comparison in the event of a concussion. These evaluations include neurocognitive testing, balance assessments, symptom inventories, and physical examination. Neurocognitive tests measure cognitive abilities such as attention, memory and processing speed, providing a comprehensive picture of an individual's cognitive function. Balance assessments evaluate postural stability and can help identify any deficits or imbalances that may result from a concussion. Physical exams include eye tracking and grip strength testing. These tests establish a personalized baseline that enables healthcare professionals to make more accurate diagnoses, track recovery progress, and determine when it is safe for an individual to return to normal activities.
"My doctor says to rest for a couple of weeks to recover from a concussion."
Concussion treatment focuses on managing symptoms, promoting safe recovery, and preventing complications. Symptom limited rest and gradual return to activity are commonly recommended in the early stages of recovery. Physical and cognitive rest allows the brain to heal, reducing the risk of further injury. As symptoms improve, a gradual increase in activity can be initiated, guided by healthcare professionals. This approach helps prevent post-concussion syndrome and long-term complications.
"What is concussion treatment?"
Complete Concussion treatment is a six-stage protocol involving monitoring and treating symptoms, and assessing readiness for returning to work (learn) and play (sport). Stage 1 begins with symptom limited cognitive work (learn) along with symptom limited physical rest. Stage 2 encourages individuals to increase their cognitive work (up to 45 minutes to an hour) and participate in a treadmill Buffalo Test for physical activity. In Stage 3, the cognitive work is increased for longer duration and returning to non-contact light sport practices. By Stage 4, individuals should be beginning to return to normal cognitive (work) demand and can increase the non-contact practice intensity. Stages 5 & 6 individuals begins the medical clearance for return with a high exertion Chicago Blackhawks Test.
"Do I always need a concussion baseline?"
Baseline testing plays a crucial role in concussion assessment and clearance by providing an objective measure for diagnosis and establishing an individual's readiness for return to work/learn and sport. It is not unusual that some people have pre-established concussion symptoms (e.g. sleep disturbance, neck pain, headaches, dizziness, etc) prior to sustaining a concussion. In order for athletes to proceed for medical clearance, they should complete the Chicago Blackhawks Test, which requires either a 0 symptom inventory score or match the symptom inventory score of the baseline test. The concussion baseline also provides the healthcare provider a critical tool to determine if the individual is ready to return to sport, even if the Blackhawks Test is successful. There have been numerous incidences, where clients require additional days and specific exercises to help them meet or pass their baseline tests. Utilizing baseline testing will help to prevent second impact syndrome. By tracking an individual's progress against their baseline, healthcare professionals can objectively measure recovery and adjust treatment strategies as needed.
"I hit my head again, now the symptoms are worse than before."
Second impact syndrome is described as an individual sustaining additional impacts to the brain during the vulnerable period of recovery from the initial concussion injury. Research teaches us the danger of the second impact is potential
difficult to reverse brain damage. With the aid of retesting the baseline, healthcare providers have a higher level of confidence to conclude the window of vulnerability has passed and an individual safe to return to play.
Complete Concussion baseline testing and treatment are invaluable tools in the management of concussions. They provide healthcare professionals with essential data for accurate diagnosis and monitoring recovery progress. By implementing a comprehensive approach that combines baseline testing with personalized treatment programs, individuals with concussions can receive the best possible care and support for their recovery.