Most concussed patients will start to feel better within 10 to 14 days. However, roughly 10-15% of concussed athletes will go on to have prolonged symptoms that can last for weeks or years. These symptoms can effect an individuals daily life from school or work to doing basic activities like grocery shopping or going out to see a movie. Given how debilitating these symptoms can be, research has focused greatly on trying to find out “why” some people have long lasting symptoms.
Symptoms following a concussion can come from a number of different areas. For days or weeks after experiencing a concussion, there are metabolic and physiological changes in the brain, which have been shown to produce a variety of symptoms. However, the cervical spine, visual integration system, vestibular system and/or psychological factors can all be affected following a concussion and lead to a variety of similar symptoms.
The cervical spine is particularly vulnerable following a concussion, given the whiplash mechanism, which usually occurs with concussions. Studies have shown the range of linear acceleration needed to sustain a concussion is between 70-120 G’s, whereas a mild neck strain only takes 4.5 G’s. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that the majority of concussions will also have some degree of cervical spine injury, which may involve the soft tissue and/or joints of the neck. These resulting symptoms are very similar to concussions, including:
- Vision changes;
- Irritability/mood disturbances;
- Cognitive changes (i.e., concentration/memory issues)
Current research has shown that following a concussion, physiotherapy focusing on cervical and/or vestibular rehabilitation significantly helps in the recovery of