Occupational therapy and Concussion management

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain is violently shaken. Typically the injury occurs during rapid movement changes such as whiplash or a direct hit to the head(2). This shaking or hitting of the head causes unpredictable injury to various areas of the brain. The damage sustained from a concussion may not just be physical but can also cause alteration in the chemical balance in the brain. This alteration can cause behavioral issues. The complications from concussions range from short-term to long-term. The CDC estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million people experience concussions during sports and recreational activities annually in the United States alone(2)

Various scenarios where a concussion may occur(2)

  • Motor vehicle collisions (ie, head impact, whiplash)
  • Work accidents (ie, falls, head trauma)
  • Playground accidents (ie, falling from a slide or swing)
  • Sports injury to the head or neck
  • Falls (which are the leading cause of concussions)

Signs and symptoms of a concussion

There are various symptoms related to concussions, as previously stated they can affect your physical, emotional, and overall mental well-being. Symptoms can arise immediately, some a few hours after the injury, and some show up even months or years after the incident.

Below are some long term and short term symptoms which could affect an individual following a concussion. 

immediate and short term symptoms(2) 

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Fogginess
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with short term memory or long term memory. 

Long-term symptoms(2)

  • Loss of libido 
  • Loss of menses/menstruation
  • Growth problems(children)
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Early dementia

 How can therapy help?

A therapist can evaluate and treat many problems related to concussions. Like no two injuries are the exact same, same goes with concussions. A Physical therapist or Occupational therapist may examine your neurological, orthopedic and cardiovascular systems in order to create a plan of care that addresses the particular symptoms present. OTs offer a unique perspective to concussion rehabilitation as they consider a person’s function within the context of family, daily activities and community(1)

Some treatment approaches include but are not limited to:

Rest and recovery

A period of rest helps the injured areas heal and increases the speed of recovery. The therapist will help you and your family understand which activities to limit depending on the injury, and when you can safely resume exercise and normal routines. 

Restoring strength

After resting for a prolonged period of time weakness and a decrease in physical endurance may occur. The physical therapist can help you regain your strength and endurance when the time is right. 

Stopping dizziness and improving balance

Difficulty with balance following a concussion is typical. A physical therapy method which focuses on vestibular senses may provide relief.  

Returning to normal activity

Occupational therapists can help you with your rehabilitation, and to adjust and adapt to any limitations that may remain following injury, helping you live the best life you can within the confines of your injury. Our OT Emily has just completed the CE course “Assessment,Treatment and Rehabilitation Strategies for Concussion and mild TBI” provided by the Massachusetts General Hospital department of Sports medicine. If you suspect that you or a loved one has a concussion please don’t hesitate to contact us to have an evaluation done!


  1. How occupational therapy can help with concussion management. Lifemark. (2019, October 1). https://www.lifemark.ca/blog-post/how-occupational-therapy-can-help-concussion-management. 
  2. Physical Therapy Guide to Concussion. American Physical Therapy Association. (2021, May 13). https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-concussion. 
Tony Crespo
July 07, 2023
Got questions or need more info?

Contact us today

703-646-2250 (Falls Church)
571-771-3130 (Sterling)