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Hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents experience concussions each year. While their youth helps them heal quickly, their brains are still developing, which puts them at a greater risk for permanent brain damage.

A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that returning to a school setting too soon after a concussion can worsen symptoms and prolong recovery.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that damages the brain on a cellular level and can also create chemical changes in the brain. Most students with a concussion recover within the first three weeks. However, some require school adjustments and physical therapy to recovery fully and safely.

Which Students Need Extra Help?

School takes concentration. If a student is unable to concentrate or tolerate stimulation, such as light, watching TV, or reading for up to 30 minutes, they should be further evaluated by a concussion recovery team.

The Concussion Recovery Team

A multidisciplinary team is an ideal solution to ensure the student receives the right help so they can return to learning without worsening their symptoms. This team should include a family team (parents), medical team (pediatrician), school/academic team (nurse/principal) and physical activity team (physical therapist/coach). The physical activity team may consist of a physical therapist trained in vestibular or concussion management.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Concussed Patients

Concussion management or vestibular rehabilitation programs are customized to the specific needs of the student.

“When a patient comes in for physical therapy following a concussion, they are often experiencing problems such as trouble with focus and sleeping, irritability, dizziness, anxiety, and nausea,” said John Hilt, PT, DPT at Step & Spine Physical Therapy. “As part of our initial evaluation, we not only assess the patient physically, we also perform visual motor and balance testing to check for deficiencies.”  

A physical therapist will work with the child to address any disturbances that are present while providing solutions that will allow them to integrate back into their normal routines appropriately. Therapy may include special exercises for the eyes, head, and body to retrain the brain and improve balance. These exercises also help decrease dizziness and headaches, improve mobility and stabilization, strengthen the head and neck, and reduce pain.

A child’s tolerance for cognitive and physical activity will increase as they recover with the right treatment. Timing is critical for the most optimal results. Parents can ensure the most significant success for their child by following the medical recommendations provided by their concussion recovery team.

If you have questions about vestibular or concussion management, contact our office today. We have physical therapists that are specially trained to help them recover fully and safely. With three convenient locations we are here for you, no matter where you live, work or play.