A concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is an energy deficit in the brain, causing ion imbalances and blood flow abnormalities. Following an injury, rest allows a patient to avoid a potentially devastating second injury, and ensures that all available energy helps to recover imbalanced brain cells.
Mental stimulation, concentration or physical exercise could burn energy and delay recovery. Therefore, complete physical and cognitive rest is prescribed immediately after injury – this means no school, homework, texting, video games, TV, or physical activity! In some cases, athletes are encouraged to sit in a dark room, free from light stimulation (although not mandatory).
The use of medication is reserved for extreme circumstances, which should be prescribed by a physician familiar with concussion injuries.
The next stages of rehabilitation involve a gradual return to cognitive and then physical activity. Each stage is separated by a period of at least 24 hours, and monitored by a clinician with training in concussion injuries (click here for more information). The athlete must have no symptoms at any one stage to progress to the next. Any present concussion symptoms indicate that the patient should drop back to the previous stage for a 24-hour period before attempting the stage again. The final stages involve monitoring increases in physical exertion to assess blood flow in the brain as well as extensive neurological, mental and physical systems testing to ensure that the brain has fully recovered.