Rehabilitation Services

Interdisciplinary Approach to Concussion Rehabilitation

At University Hospitals, we use a comprehensive approach to treating athletes with concussions. A complete evaluation by a primary care sports medicine physician or one of our primary care concussion specialists is the starting point for anyone who has suffered a concussion. A medical history, physical exam, and a general mental status and balance test is frequently performed at the first visit. These physicians provide a comprehensive assessment, provide guidance for safe return to school and sport, and determine if further evaluation or testing is needed.

Referrals to rehabilitation specialists may be made during the recovery phase if needed. Physical therapists with specific certification in concussion evaluation and management can help improve balance or vision issues and decrease overall concussion symptoms. Further evaluation into memory changes, concentration problems and mood issues can be done with detailed evaluation by neuropsychologists. This testing is a detailed assessment of concussion recovery and helps guide treatment recommendations, better understand when a concussion has fully recovered, and can assist with detailed recommendations for return to school and other activities. Other specialists, such as neurologists, ENT physicians, neurosurgeons and dentists are frequently consulted to help aide in treating our concussion patients and any complications that can occur during recovery. Our concussion specialists determine when it is safe to return to school, as well as clearance to return to exercise and sports.

Returning Athletes to Normal Function

Our physical therapists were among the first in the nation to receive specialized concussion certification and training which can help them to evaluate and assist athletes with concussions. Vestibular therapy aids in improving balance and vision problems. Our rehabilitation therapists also help treat individuals whose symptoms remain beyond what is expected for a normal concussion recovery. A sub-threshold exercise protocol may be used to help individuals safely exercise while they are still experiencing concussion symptoms. This begins with an exercise tolerance test that is similar to a stress test. During that test, an athlete’s heart rate is monitored while they are exercising to identify how much exercise is appropriate for the athlete at that time in recovery. Once the right threshold is identified, the athlete will exercise under the supervision of the rehabilitation therapist, with the expectation that the exercise that the athlete can tolerate will increase over time. University Hospitals is currently conducting studies of this new treatment technique to find out what is the best way to get athletes active again and improve their symptoms.

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