Treating neck, inner ear can speed concussion recovery, Study
Treating neck, inner ear can speed concussion recovery, Study

Treating neck, inner ear can speed concussion recovery, Study

A new study out of the University of Calgary suggests that active, hands-on physiotherapy could speed up an athlete’s return to sport following a concussion.

Most people recover from a concussion within seven to ten days and the current standard treatment for post-concussion symptoms is rest followed by graded exertion.

The study was conducted by Kathryn Schneider, a researcher and physiotherapist at U of C’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Sport Injury Prevention Research Center.

Its findings could change the way concussions are treated, as they suggest that people suffering from prolonged post-concussion symptoms could have their recovery times decreased through a combined physiotherapy treatment of the vestibular (balance) system, the cervical spine and vertebrae in the neck.

“We specifically targeted the individuals who had dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following concussions,” said Schneider, whose study was published in the British Journal of Sport Medicine.

“The general consensus is an initial period of rest is of benefit, and the majority of people do recover in that initial seven-to-10 day period, so it would be following that initial time period where if individuals still had symptoms that persisted this would be a treatment that would be of benefit.”

The study focused on 31 patients who were still suffering from symptoms after the initial seven-to-10 day recovery period. They were divided into two groups: One that went through a standard vestibular rehabilitation, and another that combined the vestibular rehabilitation with cervical spine physiotherapy.

The findings were striking.

The group that went through the combined treatment saw 73% of participants medically cleared within eight weeks, compared with just 7% of the standard group.

“I started to see a lot of athletes in the clinic and could see some positive results within a clinical environment but there’s no research currently evaluating the response to forms of physiotherapy treatment following concussions,” Schneider said. “We weren’t sure of the magnitude of the effect we might see.

“We did see a large difference between the groups — it was greater than what we had initially hypothesized it might be.”

Despite the clear difference between the two groups, there’s still lots of research that’s needed. After all, 31 people is a small sample size, and Schneider says future studies will need to examine how variables like age and gender might have on outcomes, as well as the ideal timing and dosage.

Concussions are also highly individual-specific, so no one at the U of C is suggesting they’ve stumbled on a one-size-fits-all treatment.

One major variable that can affect recovery time is whether a patient’s had a history of concussions, as symptoms often get worse and recoveries take longer when a patient’s been concussed before.

The U of C research, however, seemed to work just as well on those with a concussion history as those who were suffering through the injury for the first time.

“We don’t have the numbers to really understand the effects that a previous concussion has on the effects of this study, but in the treatment group everybody that recorded a previous history of concussion was medically cleared to return to sport,” Schneider said.


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