Concussions: myths, facts, and recovery guidelines

Concussions: myths, facts, and recovery guidelines

pt Healthconcussion, Occupational Therapy

Lifemark registered physiotherapists Janine Ankenmann and Cregg Webber discussed how to identify concussions, myths around management, and steps to return to learning, home or work activities in a free webinar.

Over half a million Canadians sustain one or more concussions each year, the majority of which result from falls and motor vehicle accidents (not sport). Resulting from a direct hit to the head or jolting of any part of the body that causes the head to move back and forth rapidly, a concussion can greatly affect a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities, including school, work and home.

Below are five key takeaways from this session. To learn more please view the webinar above.

1. No two concussions are the same.

Concussions take on a variety of forms and can differ from injury to injury and person to person. Symptoms can be grouped into buckets based on the body system or function involved such as cognitive function, psychological and emotional conditions, sleep dysfunction, neck-related, vision-related, vestibular and balance challenges, and autonomic nervous system involvement, which includes blood pressure, and heart rate and breathing changes among several other subconscious body functions. Some people may experience drastic changes in emotions or moods or feel like they may have a breakdown and don’t know why. Others may feel off balance, dizzy, or have difficulty driving. Concussions can cause a variety of symptoms which differ in type and severity for everyone. A thorough assessment of the individual is necessary to best guide treatment, education, and modifications for activity.

2. Tools like the CRT 6 can help you identify whether a concussion has happened, what symptoms to watch out for, and when to call an ambulance.

The Concussion Recognition Tool 6 (CRT 6) was developed as an awareness tool that anyone can use for identification of concussions in children, adolescents, and adults, and immediate management of the injury. The CRT 6 red flag symptoms are observable signs after an injury that indicate immediate referral for urgent medical care. The tool also highlights visual clues that may suggest a concussion has happened, and questions to ask an injured individual to assess their awareness.

3. Early assessment with a knowledgeable health care provider is a predictor of good outcomes.

It is important to get assessed right away after an injury or if a concussion is suspected. The first 48 hours (about two days) after injury is when the brain is in its most vulnerable state. Early assessment and treatment provide education on how to safely engage the brain while modifying activity. Early care from a Lifemark clinician may look like introducing manual therapies dependent on symptom types or modifying activities of daily living to reduce the sense of overwhelm. By dispelling any fears around the injury, proactive assessment and intervention is the best way to promote recovery by setting an individual up on the right path to manage their symptoms and achieve health goals.

4. Safe recovery involves gradual increases in activity as symptoms improve.

Whether returning to school, work, or other daily activities, small and gradual increments of pre-injury activities should be introduced. For instance, return-to-learn may initially involve just listening, taking regular breaks, and spending time with others to avoid isolation. Return-to-work may involve working part time and gradually increasing work related tasks and in-office days. These activities may cause some aggravation of symptoms, but they shouldn’t worsen by more than 2 points on a 10-point scale and any increases of symptoms should not last more than 1 hour.

5. Length of recovery depends on many factors.

While the vast majority of people experience a resolution of their symptoms within 30 days following a concussion, the actual time it takes to recover depends on a variety of factors. The presence of any pre-existing conditions such as migraines, or a learning disability, may lengthen recovery time. Increasing age also increases recovery time. Adolescents heal faster than people in their 20-30s, who heal faster than those who are over the age of 65.

The greatest control an individual has over their own concussion recovery is an active involvement in their recovery journey. By sticking to the treatment plan, modifying tasks while monitoring symptoms, and gradually reintroducing activities, patients can support and achieve their health goals.

Predictors of a positive recovery from a concussion injury include early recognition, immediate removal from activity, early access to care, appropriate and timely education, and time limited (48 hours) active rest followed by gradual resumption of pre-injury activity.

If you or a loved one has sustained a concussion and would benefit from knowledgeable care, check out our locations page to find a clinic near you or book online with a concussion-focused clinician here.

This blog originally appeared on and was written by Krista McIntyre, Reg. PT., M.Sc.PT., H.B.K., National Director of Program Development, Specialty Services.


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