Concussions: The Immediate and Long-Term Effects

As a physical therapy graduate student at Upstate Medical University, I have had the opportunity to get involved with the world of research. I have chosen to spend my time and energies on an important topic in the lives of today’s youth. Lately there has been a significant rise in the amount of hospital emergency room visits due to concussive or mild traumatic brain injuries. This is due in part to the rise in awareness that concussions are not good for young athletes. In the “olden days” kids were told to “shake it off”, but now we are realizing that there are significant risks to returning to athletic competition too quickly.

When a child has a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury, they have disrupted the way that some of their brain centers are functioning. Some concussion injuries may involve the cognitive centers of the brain; others may involve the motor performance centers involved with balance and movement. With any concussion injury, the motor domain of neurologic functioning should be assessed along with the cognitive domain before the injured person returns to sport. As the medical profession develops accurate and reliable tests for determining when a student is safe to return to sport, it is important that the student athlete is functioning at 100%, as well as feeling 100% better before returning to sport.

The literature is showing us that when a student athlete returns to playing their respective sport too soon, they increase their risk of injury by 10-15%. As physical therapists, we are noticing an increase of secondary concussions and an increase in orthopedic injuries when students return to playing sports too soon after a concussion. To decrease these risks, it is important to be tested for symptom changes, dual tasking ability, exertion ability, and balance. Being 100% before returning to sport is especially important because studies of high school and collegiate athletes indicate that cumulative effects may result from three or more concussive episodes.

Our goal at Sports PT is to make sure that every young athlete is able to have a safe and healthy childhood and enjoy the sports they love.


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  2. Gessel L, Fields S. Et. Al. Concussion Among United States High School and Collegiate Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training 2007;42(4):495-503.
  3. Guskiewicz K, Ross S, Marshall S. Postural Stability and Neuropsychological deficits after Concussion in collegiate Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training 2001;36(3):263-273.
  4. Langlois, J. A., Rutland-Brown, W., & Wald, M. M. (2006). The epidemiology and impact of traumatic brain injury: a brief overview. J Head Trauma Rehabil, 21(5), 375-378.
  5. Register-Mihalik, J. K., Littleton, A. C., & Guskiewicz, K. M. (2013). Are divided attention tasks useful in the assessment and management of sport-related concussion? Neuropsychol Rev, 23(4), 300-313. doi: 10.1007/s11065-013-9238-1.