Tips & Techniques

Changing Concussion Conversations

Dana Tress 
January 27, 2024
Changing Concussion Conversations

Concussions happen.  Concussions, like many other injuries, can happen while playing sports, taking a fall, or even a car accident.  They are common, with an estimated 3 million concussions being reported just in youth sports annually.  With this many concussions happening each year, why is there still so much confusion on the best way to manage them?  Concussions happen when the body is stopped suddenly from moving at a faster speed, like running or cycling.  This causes the brain to rapidly move inside of the skull, resulting in this type of brain injury.  A person does not have to hit their head or be knocked out to have a concussion.  To be diagnosed with a concussion, you have to have the right mechanism of injury and one symptom.  Because a concussion is an injury to the brain and the brain controls everything in your body, concussion symptoms can dramatically vary from things like memory issues, clumsiness, headache, dizziness, abnormal heart rates, and even changes in emotions.  There are currently no special tests or imaging, like x-rays and MRIs, that are readily available to diagnose a concussion.  Because of this, they can be easily misdiagnosed or attributed to other problems.

If a concussion is not accurately diagnosed, it can lead to additional problems.  Our athletes might go back to their sport too early and our kids might return to school too soon.  If the concussion is not properly treated as our kids go back to school and sports, it will actually take the brain longer to recover.  And going back to sports too soon will risk sustaining another concussion.  This can have severe, even fatal, consequences.  Proper concussion treatment and management can help prevent the development of PCS, short for prolonged concussion symptoms.  This is what develops when concussion symptoms do not resolve within 30 days and occurs in about ⅓ of people with a concussion.

As Physical Therapists, treating concussions using the latest research and best practices does not mean that we want kids to stop playing sports.  It’s the exact opposite of that.  Concussions will happen, just like ankle sprains and broken bones will happen.  Similarly, there is nothing that we can do to stop the brain from moving inside of the skull as the result of a concussive blow.  It’s how we manage the injury that makes the difference.  Our goal as Physical Therapists is to educate you, help you work through the confusion surrounding concussion recovery, and return your athlete to their sport safely, as soon as possible, and better than ever.  After all, we love sports as much as you do!

There seems to be a missing piece in concussion recovery.  Our youth athletes’ coaches typically receive training on how to identify if an athlete is concussed and how to manage those first few minutes or hours.  Hopefully, the coaches have also appointed parents on the sidelines to help watch the athletes to ensure anyone who sustained a concussive force is immediately pulled from play.  It is what happens next that we start to have trouble.  Too frequently, our parents are not getting the information that they need to help their child through concussion recovery.  The old-school methods of treating concussions are still out there.  “Should I be waking my child up every hour to check on them?”  “Should my child rest until their symptoms go away?”  “My child seems to be feeling fine a few days after the concussion, so they can get back to all of their normal activities now, right?”  Parents deserve to be empowered with the best, most current information about concussions to help their children recover safely and without the additional risk of prolonged recovery or secondary complications.  Unfortunately, the most current recommendations and techniques for concussion recovery have not made their way to many health care professions that would be the first to see your child following an injury.  

This is where the physical therapists at the Smith Balance + Concussion Center can help.  We will clear up the confusion, contradictions and misinformation surrounding concussion recovery for you.  We are certified concussion rehabilitation specialists, trained in the latest, cutting edge of concussion treatment and recovery.  Our expertise in concussion management not only ensures that we can provide your youth athlete with the best care, but we can also be the best advocate for your child.  We will create a team with you and your child, teachers, school professionals, coaches, healthcare providers and trainers to ensure the highest standard of care is being kept consistent in all aspects of the youth athlete’s recovery.  We take other sports injuries seriously.  We need to make sure we take concussions seriously too.  After all, there are few things we should value more than our brain.

This is why we at the Smith Balance + Concussion Center created a variety of programs to help you navigate concussion care for your child.  We offer in-person and virtual consultations and treatment programs for kids who have sustained a concussion.  A customized treatment program is created to meet the unique needs of your child to help them return to school and their sport as soon as it is safe to do so.  We also offer online content full of the details you need as a parent to confidently guide your child through their concussion recovery and advocate for their health and well-being with the most current protocols and knowledge as your tool.  These online classes will help debunk the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding concussions and give you the assurance you need as a parent that you are helping your child receive the best interventions possible.

Whether it is on a playground, a field, a rink, a diamond, or a court, our kids were meant to play.  And, we want to ensure that our kids can keep playing.  That means that injuries, including concussions, will happen.  By working together, as a team, we can change the concussion conversation and make sure that our kids get the best care possible.  

Meet the Author
Dana Tress, PT, MS, CEAS, AIB-CON is a physical therapist specializing in the management of concussion, balance dysfunction, headaches and dizziness in Crystal Lake, Illinois at Smith Physical Therapy Balance + Concussion Center, an award winner in concierge physical therapy services for McHenry County and surrounding regions.
You were made to move!