New methods of recovery for concussions

kinesiology (Andreas) online

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

A research team at Wilfrid Laurier University is investigating more accurate methods of evaluating recovery following a concussion.

The research, which stems from work in the department of kinesiology and physical education, is centered on the viability of balance as a measure of recovery in an individual having sustained a concussion.

“One of the cardinal symptoms of a concussion, other than headaches, is loss of balance or balance control,” said Michael Cinelli, associate professor in the department of kinesiology and physical education.

“Over the past few years what we’ve been doing is sort of trying to find some more objective measures to determine when balance has returned to normal following a concussion.”

The research has indicated that something as simple as a step can effectively demonstrate whether an individual has any impairment to their balance.

The problem that emerges is that clinics do not have access to the same equipment as researchers in the lab and cannot test balance as accurately.

“We’ve tried to find more beneficial tools for clinicians to use hands on,” said Cinelli. “They don’t have these huge, expensive pieces of equipment in most clinics.”

The dangers of resuming activity prior to full recovery are large, with symptoms of concussions ranging from dizziness, headaches, impaired vision and balance issues to the possibility of second impact syndrome, a rare but potentially deadly occurrence in which individuals suffer a second concussion without having fully recovered.

The research Cinelli and his team are performing is centered on varsity athletes and their balance prior-to and following concussions, with the hope that their findings will provide results transferable to clinics and physical therapists off-campus.

“[The] university setting is a fabulous setting because at your hands you’ve got sports therapists, faculty members, all these people trying to help you get back into all aspects of life. The people I’m more worried about are the non-varsity athlete population, the people in the work force,” said Cinelli.

“By picking a population which we know has a greater than normal chance of concussion and analyzing them, that work can then migrate over to a working population.”

The work done by these researchers is not limited to the lab, with many of the students involved having formed the campus club TeamUp Laurier, a group dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public on concussions.

The group performs presentations throughout the Kitchener-Waterloo region on the symptoms of concussions and on proper procedure for recovery following injury.

“It used to be one of those things where people didn’t know how to deal with it, and there were a lot of myths and misconceptions about it,” said Laura Fedy, chapter director of TeamUp Laurier.

“The ultimate goal is we want it to be treated the same as any other injury.”

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