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What Kind of Physical Therapist Do I Need to Manage My Concussion?

For the first time in 8 years the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised the recommendations on pediatric sports-related concussions. This makes it important to find a healthcare professional who is up to date with updated concussion management guidelines. Concussions in children are a rapidly growing public health concern since over the past decade there has been a marked increase in the number of emergency department visits.

Concussions often occur along with other injuries, such as those to the neck and surrounding area, which should be managed by a licensed physical therapist. More serious brain injuries may also occur and require the immediate care of a medical doctor, such as a sports medicine doctor or neurosurgeon. It is important to seek medical treatment from a health care provider, such as a physical therapist, immediately following any head injury. Only health care providers have the knowledge and training to diagnose a concussion in the maze of symptoms that can occur following a head injury.

Concussion Symptoms:

A concussion is a brain injury; patients living with a brain injury often cannot articulate how they feel following the injury. Therefore, it is critical to work with a physical therapist who takes time to get to know you, your family, teammates, and/or coworkers who may notice any changes in you.

There are many symptoms related to concussion that can affect your physical, emotional, and mental health. Some symptoms show immediately, some after the injury, and some arise up months or years after a concussion.

Immediate and short-term symptoms

Physical symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty with balance and coordination

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Increased sleepiness

  • Double or blurred vision

  • Sensitivity to light and sound

  • Slurred speech

  • Glassy-eyed stare

  • Seizures

Cognitive (thinking) symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty with short-term or long-term memory

  • Confusion

  • Slowed "processing" (eg, a decreased ability to think through problems)

  • "Fogginess"

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Worsening grades in school

Emotional symptoms can include:

  • Irritability

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Mood swings

  • Aggression

  • Decreased tolerance of stress

  • Change in personality or behavior

Longer-term symptoms

  • Loss of libido

  • Loss of menses/menstruation

  • Growth problems (children)

  • Fatigue