According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur each year. The CDC also reports that nearly a quarter of a million children age 19 or younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments in 2009 for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or another type of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Concussion statistics can vary widely because there is no single test to diagnose a concussion and patients can present with a variety of different symptoms and severity. Some people lose consciousness after a concussion, others don’t. Symptoms may last for hours, days, weeks or months.
What is clear is that the fastest-growing age group getting concussions is children up to 14 years old. That’s why M&M Physical Therapy provides leading-edge expertise in evaluating and treating concussions, with a specialized focus on children and teens. By the time kids enter college, even high school, they may have already suffered one or more concussions.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussion symptoms vary from person to person, but may include the following, according to the CDC.
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Feeling slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering new information
- Fuzzy or blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Balance problems
- Feeling tired, having no energy
- Irritability or sadness
- More emotional
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Sleeping changes
Seek immediate emergency treatment if the following signs are present:
- Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting or nausea.
- Slurred speech.
- Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
- Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
- Have convulsions or seizures.
- Cannot recognize people or places.
- Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
- Have unusual behavior.
- Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).
Fortunately, the symptoms of a concussion are temporary and resolve over time in most cases. With each concussion, however, there is a small chance that permanent brain damage can occur.
What is Concussion Baseline Testing?
You’re probably aware of the emphasis that college and professional sports put on the prevention and treatment of concussions. But concussions can also occur in middle and high school athletics, on the playground, or as a result of a car accident or fall—any occurrence that involves an injury to the head.
By the time a child reaches high school or college, he or she may have suffered one or multiple concussions. We encourage initial baseline concussion testing for all kids by age 10, followed by re-evaluation every two years in order to measure any physical or physiological deficits. That would mean by the time a teen enters high school, he or she would have undergone three baseline tests to evaluate cognitive function and physical ability. The sooner we can test a child’s baseline, the better we can treat any subsequent injuries.
Baseline testing includes ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) testing before suffering a concussion. This assessment, which only takes about 20 minutes, provides a computerized evaluation of such functions as attention span, working memory, non-verbal problem solving and response variability.
A computer test alone cannot determine concussion damage, that’s why our trained physical therapists also check each patient’s physical functioning. For example, someone with a head injury may be able to pass an ImPACT test following a concussion, but a balance test would reveal a physical deficit. Measuring speed, agility, quickness and aerobic ability helps determine when it’s safe to return to normal activities.
Just like you take your child to the doctor for immunizations and inoculations, we believe a concussion assessment is essential to ensure effective evaluation, proper treatment and a successful recovery.
Why M&M Physical Therapy
Our staff of highly-trained and certified ImPACT Trained Physical Therapists evaluate and provide an individualized program based on each patient’s needs, not simply following a standard return-to-play protocol.
Our baseline testing is the most comprehensive in the area, evaluating multiple body systems affected during a traumatic brain injury.
Our therapists use a team approach, working with parents, coaches, teachers, athletic trainers, school nurses and others to provide accurate and safe progress to ensure full recovery prior to return to activity.