Concussion Management

Throughout the United States, it is estimated that more than two million concussions occur each year. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that is caused by either a direct force/blow to the head or a force transmitted through the body to the head. Concussions can be caused by falls and car accidents – or any other situation where the head receives a sudden jolt. NovaCare Rehabilitation’s comprehensive Concussion Management Program offers specially trained experts who provide individualized concussion evaluations and rehabilitation programs for children and adults.

Signs and Symptoms

Concussions typically result in the rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurological function that resolves spontaneously. However, in some cases, signs and symptoms may evolve over a number of minutes to hours. The following are common symptoms of concussion:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness (fatigue, forgetful or feels “foggy”)
  • Appears dazed, stunned or confused
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating/focusing
  • Shows imbalance/Moves clumsily
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Blurred vision/Double vision
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Answers questions slowly/Slurred speech

If someone suspects that a concussion has occurred, the injured person should stop the activity or sport immediately and be taken to the emergency room or to a physician to assess for other injuries, like a skull fracture, neck injury or bleeding on the brain.

If an individual has sustained a concussion, immediate rest (no activity) is the first and most important step in recovery. A physician will need to determine if the individual can return to activity, school, work or athletics. The time from being symptom-free and resuming activity varies by individual and can be helped significantly through concussion management and rehabilitation.

It is OK to:

  • Go to sleep, rest
  • Use an ice pack on head/neck for comfort
  • Eat a light diet, hydrate

There is no need to:

  • Test reflexes
  • Stay in bed, wake up every hour
  • Check eyes with a flashlight

Do not:

  • Drive
  • Drink alcohol
  • Exercise, participate in strenuous activity
  • Take ibuprofen, aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory
  • Use electronic devices such as cell phones

Concussion Management Program

The days of sitting in a dark room to treat a concussion are over. Statistics have shown that as concussion symptoms begin to decrease, physical therapy has been shown to help recover balance, gaze stability, focus, gait and mood.

The assessment, diagnosis and treatment of concussions follow a specific process and must be handled on an individual basis. We understand that symptoms and recovery time are unique and develop an individualized plan of care that helps increase physical and mental activity.

Our job is to establish a supervised regimen in our centers and for home use that includes exercises to increase physical and mental activity without provoking symptoms or causing an increase in symptoms. We facilitate an increase in aerobic capacity to help the brain meet the metabolic demand of physical tasks. We also teach coping strategies and how to work within the limitations of the symptom-provoking activities, like dizziness, headaches and vertigo.

Our trained and experienced licensed/certified athletic trainers and licensed physical therapists work closely with the individual, referring physician(s), parents, coaches and employers to make sure the concussed individual is ready to return to play or activity without fear of long-term effects.

Our Comprehensive Concussion Management Program consists of:

  • Vestibular/Balance/Ocular motor rehabilitation
  • Vision and coordination testing to help asses deficits
  • Baseline testing
  • Orthopaedic evaluation of the neck, as well as contributing factors that may be causing headaches
  • Return-to-play/activity program initiated once a patient is symptom-free to ensure full safety
  • Speakers and accompanying educational materials available to parents, coaches, athletes and workers
  • On-site/On-field management to properly assess and effectively manage concussion injuries
  • Specialist referral

Baseline Testing

Our experienced clinical team utilizes specific screenings* (typically conducted during pre-season and used as an athlete’s “normal” to provide a baseline test to keep on record In the event of a diagnosed concussion, a post-injury test is conducted to create a specific healing and rehabilitation protocol. The following screens are provided throughout our community outpatient centers:

  • ImPACT™
  • Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC)
  • Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT2)
  • Maddocks Questions – Sideline Assessment