UW Health Sports Concussion Rehabilitation Program
Concussion in sports is a common occurrence with approximately 20 percent of the 1.7 million concussions reported annually in the U.S. attributed to athletic competition.
More than half of high school athletes report a history of concussion by the time they start their freshman year of college, and over a third of collegiate athletes report sustaining multiple concussions in their sporting careers.
The majority of athletes recover within ten days of their injury, but 10-20 percent of these athletes suffer a prolonged recovery and may develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The symptoms of PCS include:
- Prolonged fatigue
- Concentration difficulty, or memory difficulty
Traditionally, the standard of care for PCS has been to rest from physical and cognitive activity, and to treat symptoms such as headache with medications. However, recent research suggests that rehabilitation, including progressive aerobic exercise, is safe and effective for individuals who develop PCS.
Concussion Rehabilitation Program
UW Health Sports Rehabilitation has developed one of the first comprehensive rehabilitation programs in the country to work with patients and their families to improve symptoms and physical performance after a sport-related concussion. The process starts with a thorough examination to assist our specially-trained clinicians who work in collaboration with the UW Health Sports Medicine primary care physicians in determining the appropriate PCS classification.
This evaluation often includes components of graded cardiovascular exercise testing and cervical spine examination as well as visuomotor and vestibular systems assessment. Since no two patients are identical, this classification allows for a refined approach to identify each individual's specific deficits, which leads to improved patient and family education and more targeted selection of appropriate treatment planning.
As concussion management guidelines continue to evolve, the UW Health Sports Rehabilitation staff is committed to providing quality care. We analyze patient outcomes to improve our service and collect data to help guide treatment. Few studies exist in the published literature on this topic and the contribution of our experience and results will make a valuable addition to the best available evidence.
One such example is our partnership with the University of Wisconsin Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation to assess a new technology, the TrazerHRA, which is designed for rehabilitation of athletes after concussion. The TrazerHRA system is an interactive, computer-based assessment and training tool. The system uses optical motion tracking technology to perform complex performance measures from an individual’s body movement in response to a visual stimulus on a video screen. This system may have the potential to make a significant contribution to the post-concussion management for both performance assessment and active rehabilitation. Preliminary study of the device is currently underway. UW Health Sports Medicine staff will continue to seek ways to provide leadership both regionally and nationally as we learn more about this common sports injury.
With the fall sports season right around the corner, there will likely be an increase in the number of athletes suffering concussions. UW Health Sports Medicine staff are ready to help.