The new school year is fast approaching, and young athletes are looking forward to getting back on the field to show off their skills against rival teams. Many of them have been training for years and are dreaming of the day when they will get the nod for a starting position. As parents get their children signed up to compete in sports, they need to consider more than just uniform and equipment purchases—involvement in any sport comes with risks.
In 2011, the Arizona Interscholastic Association made it a requirement for all high school athletes to complete the NHFS concussion course in order to be eligible for play. According to the CDC, approximately 300,000 high school athletes suffer sports-related head injuries every year. Many people associate concussion injuries with football players; however, these injuries can affect youth in ALL sports.
Fortunately, concussion and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) awareness has increased. Communicating with your child when a head injury is suspected is vital to recovery. Many concussions or head injuries go undetected (or unspoken of) by the athlete. These are the symptoms to look for in your child if you suspect they may be suffering from a concussion:
- Slurred Speech
- Sleep Disturbance
- Temporary Loss of Consciousness
- Ringing in Ears
- Delayed Response
- Irritability/Personality Change
- Light Sensitivity
It is important to immediately inform your child’s physician, coach, and/or their school athletic trainer if you notice any of these symptoms following a head injury. The brain needs time to heal and an athlete should not return to sport until cleared to do so by a physician and athletic trainer.
So, how can physical therapy help with concussion recovery?
Physical therapy treatments cannot heal the injured brain, but your physical therapist can facilitate injury recovery by monitoring the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms associated with a concussion. Many concussions are linked to neck trauma and, as a result, can produce cervicogenic headaches. Following evaluation of the cervical region by a physical therapist, treatments may include neck stretching or strengthening exercises, manual therapy, mechanical traction, ultrasound, and/or electrical stimulation. Neck strengthening can be essential in preventing re-injury.
Through a series of specific training and exercise, physical therapy can also address the vestibular symptoms associated with concussions such as dizziness, balance issues, and difficulty focusing. Following a concussion diagnosis, an athlete is generally instructed to avoid any physical activity or sport until symptom-free. Once cleared, your PT can help get the athlete back into sport-specific shape in a safe manner while monitoring post-concussion symptoms throughout rehab. Healthcare providers are concerned with preventing another head injury, as repeated concussions without proper healing have been linked to depression, increased aggression, dementia, and suicidal tendencies.
To ensure your child heals fully and safely from a concussion, and to prevent one from re-occurring, visit your local Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix physical therapy clinic. We have 22 locations across the Valley, and our highly trained staff are available for a free assessment to address your physical therapy needs and questions.