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Concussion Program Provides Specialized Treatment for Athletes


Concussion #1
Physical therapist Sarah Conover works with Devan Frey on vergence (the eyes working together to maintain focused vision) while also working on postural stability and balance as part of the Concussion Program at UVMC.

After painful headaches and struggles concentrating on his school work, Devan Frey finally found relief from football-related concussions through a specialized physical therapy program at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC).

Frey, now a junior at Upper Valley Career Center in Piqua, received his first concussion in a junior varsity football game at Fort Loramie, his home school district.

The concussion came in the fall of 2010. He received a second concussion the same season when hit in the chest, leaving him of play out for the season.

When recurring headaches, lack of concentration and other post concussion problems persisted, he was referred to a neurologist. She did testing and recommended the UVMC Physical Therapy Concussion Program.

Physical Therapist Sarah Conover worked with Frey several weeks last summer focusing on vestibular therapy exercises which involve vision and balance.

This fall when Frey returned to school, he was a different kid. “We had the old Devan back,” said his mom, Pam Frey.

Education is the key in dealing with concussions, said Conover. The concerns involved with concussions both short and long term are receiving increasing public attention.

“About 80 percent of kids with concussions go back to the sport and never have a problem again. They don’t need therapy,” Conover said. “It is the other 20 percent who do; that’s who we are here for, those with severe concussions or multiple concussions.”

Symptoms associated with concussions include dizziness and impairments in balance, visual perception/focusing and coordination.

For those with a mild concussion, the main treatment usually is rest.  For those with a more serious concussion, intervention by a physical therapist is likely needed, Conover said. She uses vestibular training exercises designed specifically for the individual to help with controlling pain, better balance, less dizziness, improved visual focus, less fatigue, increased coordination and better concentration. 

The vestibular training treatment generally includes exercises at the UVMC Rehab Unit once a week for up to 12 weeks coupled with a series of “intensive” home exercises. The exercises don’t take long but usually are done four to five times a day.

The goals include “bathing the brain in these activities frequently” in order to provide rehabilitation, Conover said.

Devan and Pam Frey said they would encourage anyone with a concussion to be proactive – seek proper attention and then care, if needed.

“Do it the first time and not wait,’ Devan Frey said.

Pam Frey added, “Trust your gut instinct and your kid’s. If they are hesitant to go back (to the sport)… they know themselves. Don’t say, ‘He hasn’t had a headache for a week, it is time to play again.’”

How a concussion affects the brain is different for each person. “We have found with concussions there is no cast, no broken bone. You can’t see anything so you have all of these things and you don’t know how to deal with them,” Pam Frey said.

Concussion  #2
Physical therapist Sarah Conover uses infrared technology to examine the eye behavior of Devan Frey, as part of treatment for a concussion. The vestibular system is closely linked to the eyes. Therapists can tell a lot about the inner ears by looking at eye movement.

Conover said many schools now do a base line testing of athletes prior to a sports season to have information on hand about preconcussion conditions.

Devan Frey, who had given up other sports to play football, decided to end his sports career. He now pursues other interests such as hunting and camping.

For others who desire, a return to the sport is not out of the question, Conover said. That decision should be reached by the athlete and their family, as long as the medical team involved approves the return.

For more information on the Physical Therapy Concussion Program at UVMC, call (937) 440-4840 or log on to www.UVMC.com.

Content Updated: December 1, 2014

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