Physical Therapists Provide Unique Contribution to Concussion Care

From athletes and actors to laborers and military members, physical therapists can help individuals of all ages in the evaluation of and recovery from concussion.

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, August 31, 2011 — As a new season of sport and activity begins, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is reminding athletes and all participants of organized activities that anyone exhibiting signs, symptoms, and behaviors of a concussion should be prohibited from further play or participation until he or she can be evaluated by a qualified health care professional as part of a multi-disciplinary team. A physical therapist may be the entry person to this multi-disciplinary team and works with all designated team members to ensure optimal management for the injured individual.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year.1 However, people who have physically demanding jobs or who engage in organized activity are at risk for concussion as well. They too can benefit from the expertise of a physical therapist trained in concussion management who can assess their condition and determine when it's safe to return to their jobs or hobbies.

"Physical therapists are an integral part of the health care professional team that evaluates and manages not only athletes with concussions, but also members of the military, workers who sustain head injuries on the job, and anyone who might suffer a concussion such as from a whiplash injury or a fall," says APTA spokesperson and ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell, PT, OCS, CSCS. "With their extensive education and training, physical therapists provide a unique contribution to the concussion care multidisciplinary team—particularly in the area of vestibular evaluation and rehabilitation."

Although concussions in youth sports, particularly in football and hockey, have permeated the news in recent years, APTA encourages participants in other activities to be aware of the importance of being screened by a qualified health care professional trained in concussion management to establish if they should be removed from their activity and when it's safe to return.

"Lately, we've seen a tremendous amount of attention and education focused on concussion with regard to athletes in high-contact sports," says Bell, "and that's a great thing. However, in being vigilant about caring for athletes, we cannot overlook other groups who are at risk of concussion, such as construction and factory workers, military members in training and in combat, and performing artists."

For more information on the signs and symptoms of concussion and how a physical therapist can evaluate and treat many problems related to concussion, visit APTA's Physical Therapist's Guide to Concussion

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 77,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students of physical therapy nationwide. Learn more about conditions physical therapists can treat and find a physical therapist in your area. Consumers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@moveforwardpt) and Facebook.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heads up: concussion in youth sports. A fact sheet for coaches. Accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/pdf/coaches_Engl.pdf on August 1, 2011. 
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