Sports Concussion Rehabilitation Clinic

UW Health Sports Rehabilitation in Madison, Wisconsin offers a comprehensive Sports Concussion Rehabilitation Program. Our team, in collaboration with Sports Medicine physicians, evaluates athletes with prolonged concussion symptoms.

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Concussion Rehabilitation: A Patient's Story



About Concussions


Concussion refers to a mild traumatic injury to the brain without an associated structural abnormality such as bleeding. It may occur with or without loss of consciousness.


While concussions can occur from direct impact, many occur without any contact to the head. A sudden abrupt stop, such as a fall to the ground or two players running directly into one another without hitting heads, can cause a concussion.
  • Twenty percent of the estimated 1.7 million head injuries that occur in the United States each year are sports-related
  • In high school athletes, more than 50 percent have reported a history of concussion and more than 33 percent of collegiate athletes have reported a history of multiple concussions
  • Approximately 10 percent of sport-related injuries require hospitalization
  • Those who have had a head injury are two to four times more likely to have another head injury 
  • The majority of concussion patients recover quickly with rest, but as many as 33 percent may have continued symptoms

Post-concussion Syndrome (PCS)


Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) can develop after a single injury. Broadly defined, the hallmarks of PCS include prolonged fatigue, headache, dizziness, irritability, insomnia, and difficulty with concentration or memory, as well as intolerance to cardiovascular exercise.


The standard of care for PCS has been to rest, both from physical and cognitive activity, until symptoms are resolved. But recent research suggests rehabilitation as an effective way to address the potentially life-altering consequences of a concussion.


Rehabilitation Evaluations


Evaluations include a thorough assessment of the whole athlete, with special consideration given to aerobic exercise tolerance, whiplash-like cervical spine dysfunction and problems with vision and balance. Graded exercise testing combined with a thorough examination can help properly classify the impairments underlying PCS. Since no two patients are identical, classification allows for a refined approach to identifying each patient's specific deficits and can lead to more appropriate treatment.


Treating Post-concussion Syndrome


Treatment is specific to each patient but often includes elements of closely monitored sub-symptom aerobic exercise, manual therapy and therapeutic exercise for spinal dysfunction, visuomotor retraining and balance impairment. Progressive aerobic exercise has been shown to be safe and effective in improving function in patients with PCS.


Most patients are prescribed an exercise program to be performed five to six days per week, with close monitoring of exercise intensity using a heart rate monitor. Exercise intensity is determined during the evaluation, and maintained at sub-symptom levels. Cervical range-of-motion, eye movement and balance exercises may be prescribed, as well.


As patients make progress, rehabilitation programs are fine-tuned to meet the demands of returning to full function in daily life and sport. Additionally, elements of injury prevention, such as cervical strengthening exercises, are incorporated as individuals return to pre-injury activities.