If you or an athlete in your care suffers a concussion, a physiotherapist can work to help speed the healing process and create a safe return to play program. And by following the Physio-4 for Sports-related Concussions, parents and coaches can be more aware of when a concussion has occurred and help to protect soccer or hockey players from getting or causing a concussion and keep moving for life. These tips can be adapted for other sports.
1. Monitor the health of the athlete.
Before the first practice, assess the young athlete’s baseline brain function (memory skills, concentration), and then re-test during the season to help identify the effects of any injury. Know if the young athlete has had a prior concussion, if so have a physiotherapist help set up a program for a safe and prepared return to play.
2. Positioning and protecting the head.
To prevent giving or receiving a concussion, young hockey and soccer players must learn to protect their heads and avoid dangerous angles of contact. Hockey players should always approach the boards on an angle, and never check from behind. Soccer players should “head the ball” correctly, and keep a protective
space around their bodies to avoid bumping heads and straining necks.
3. Ensure a gradual return to play.
If a young player does suffer a concussion it’s imperative that he/she does not return to play too soon; their brain needs time to heal. A physiotherapist can establish an individualized rehabilitation program that will help prevent the incidence of re-injury, guide the young athlete through the recovery process, and help determine when it is safe to return to play.
4. Train specifically for the sport.
Hockey specific off-ice training exercises will improve control of the neck, spine and pelvis, and will help with skating, puck skills and safe body contact to avoid concussion. Soccer players (especially girls who are prone to concussions) should include a neck-strengthening program as part of their conditioning.
Younger players should not practice “heading the ball” until they are adequately trained in the proper technique.
Physiotherapists are the rehabilitation specialists recommended most by physicians. They are university-educated health professionals who work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat virtually any mobility issue. Physiotherapists provide care for orthopedic issues such as sport and workplace injuries, as well as cardiorespiratory and neurological conditions. As Canada's most physically active health professionals, BC's physiotherapists know how to keep British Columbians moving for life.