The Headache Clinic
The Headache Clinic

Concussion (Acute and PCS)

This is an area where research is rapidly changing! It was only a few short years ago that rest was prescribed as the best treatment. Rest following a concussion is now recommended to be no longer then 24-48 hours. Following this brief rest period, a return to everyday activities to tolerance and seeking out professional help is highly recommended to guide you through to a full recovery.

Research shows that the average concussion injury involves 95g of force to the head. It can take as little as 4g of force cause an injury to the upper cervical spine. To put this into perspective, a dragster racing car that can accelerate from 0 - 160 kilometres per hour in 0.86 seconds will yield a g-force of 5.4g.

This means it is virtually impossible to have a concussion injury and there not be some effect on the structures of the upper cervical spine (top of the neck). The latest medical research is acknowledging that the neck plays a significant role in concussion and can contribute to ongoing symptoms after a concussion injury.

The neck can be mistakenly thought of as one structure, however the upper cervical spine is completely different to the rest of the spine - both in structure and function. This area is particularly vulnerable during a concussion injury and has a major influence on brain function. The information from the upper cervical spine enters directly into the brainstem and can manifest concussion symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, brain fog, cognitive and memory issues, gut issues, visual disturbances, tinnitus... the list goes on. The key is to identify which system is responsible for the resulting symptoms.

Ongoing symptoms following a concussion are likely a result of dysfunction in any of these systems: cervical spine, visual, vestibular, cognitive, blood flow regulation, metabolic, inflammatory. Each of which needs to be assessed for dysfunction and a tailored plan for treatment created.

The team at The Headache Clinic have undergone international study in concussion management. We are qualified to assess and identify which systems are affected and can help get to the bottom of why symptoms are persisting.

The Headache Clinic expertise are sort after when it comes to concussion management. We are working with current All Blacks, Super Rugby and provincial rugby players.

We are also working closely with Tasman Rugby and Rugby Southland to increase their communities knowledge of concussion.

Who is More Susceptible to Post-Concussion Syndrome? 

Children, teenagers and females are more susceptible to concussion injuries. One factor is the muscles of the neck are smaller and weaker in these groups which means that the acceleration of the head may be greater during impact, causing greater damage to the brain and structures in the neck. There is also incomplete brain development and a lower myelination in young people.

The symptoms of an uncomplicated mild concussion will usually resolve within the first 2 weeks post-injury. Resolution of symptoms following a concussion is known to be a poor indicator of brain recovery. Having an up to date baseline test can give greater clarity and certainty for clearance in returning to sport and ultimately having made a full recovery from a concussion.

When can you return to sport after a concussion?

Returning to sport or high risk contact activities before having made a full recovery can put you at risk of sustaining a second concussion before you have recovered from your first. This can delay recovery, intensify symptom presentation and/or lead to second impact syndrome. It is vital to have medical clearance before returning to sport. Baseline testing is the most accurate way to know when you are ready to return to sport.

Our team are qualified and ready to complete a comprehensive baseline concussion test for you! This is assessed and updated at least once every 12 months to provide accurate data that will be used to determine when the brain has made a full recovery and it is safe to return to sport.

What to Do If You Think You Have Post-Concussion Syndrome 

Research shows the greatest predictor of recovery time is time from initial injury to initial clinic visit. The sooner you seek out treatment, education and care, clinically the faster and better your recovery is likely to be.

If you have sustained a concussion injury and have ongoing symptoms, ensure that you get your neck checked by a practitioner with specialised knowledge and postgraduate training in the upper cervical spine. This is a delicate area and needs to be carefully examined to ensure that injury and dysfunction are diagnosed correctly and treated by a skilled practitioner. 

At The Headache Clinic, we have undertaken further international study in both the cervical spine and concussion management. Our knowledge continues to grow as we stay up to date with the latest research and developments in this area.

Treatment post-injury will be tailored to the systems that are impacted. A baseline test can be used to identify which systems are involved following injury.

This is an injury that is complicated and needs to be taken seriously. The effects can be life-long if these injuries are not managed correctly and by professionals who are experienced in treating concussion injuries. Get in touch to find out more. 

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