Exercise for concussions?!?


Did you know: early aerobic exercise within the first week after concussion has been shown to be safe, and may be of benefit to recovery!


What is a Concussion?

  • Short term and reversible impairment of neurological function
  • Can also be the result of a non-contact injury and does not require a direct blow to the head
  • Cannot be seen on traditional imaging techniques (like MRI’s)
  • Does not need to include a loss of consciousness
  • Symptoms usually resolve themselves naturally (around 10-14 days)
  • Resolution sometimes takes longer in children and young adults (up to 4 weeks)
  • Some cases do progress into persisting longer than 4 weeks

Exercise for concussions

Previously, concussions were treated with the “rest is best” approach. We used to suggest cognitive rest until your concussion symptoms are gone, after which you could start rehab. This is still the most common treatment method used to this day. I know I’ve suffered my fair share of concussions, and this is how I was treated many years ago.

However, there is limited evidence to support resting longer than 24-48 hours after concussion. Rehabilitation after concussion can be tricky and is now starting to include aerobic exercise early on at a very monitored, controlled, submaximal and below symptom threshold level to facilitate recovery, where activity should not bring on or worsen your symptoms.

At the clinic we have physiotherapists and kinesiologists familiar with the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test or the BCTT. You need medical clearance to start exercise, but clinically, I like to start exercise as soon as we can. With the BCTT, we can find very specific “doses” of exercise intensities to prescribe that can safely improve symptoms, speed up return to activity, and restore function in many patients (1).

 Overall, concussion treatment can be complex and involve many factors. As we continue to learn more about concussion through research, we implement the most current, up-to-date, and validated treatment methods. One of the newest concussion treatment approaches includes early, submaximal aerobic exercise. In the clinic we find and prescribe the appropriate “dose” of exercise and continue to monitor and progress it when we can, to help speed recovery and return to sports and school/work.

Kamloops Physiotherapy learning and practicing the BCTT for the treatment of concussions


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This blog was written by Tim Schmidt, MPT, with references adapted from:

(1) Leddy JJ, Haider MN, Ellis M, Willer BS. Exercise is Medicine for Concussion. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2018;17(8):262-270.

McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Dvořák J, et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport-the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. Br J Sports Med. 2017;51(11):838-847. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097699

If you would like to book an appointment with Tim or one of our other therapists with training in concussion management, call the clinic at (250) 314-0788.

This blog is not intended as medical advice or legal standard of care and should not be interpreted as such. This blog is for interest only and general in nature. Individual treatment will depend on the facts and circumstances specific to each individual case.