Posted on November 14, 2022

Returning to Play after a Concussion: The Mary Free Bed Sports Concussion Program

Participating in sports is a great way to stay healthy – both physically and mentally. But physical activity can sometimes lead to injury. With sporting programs in full swing, there is no better time to bring awareness to concussions.  

Every year, millions of concussions occur due to sports-related injuries. Most concussions go undiagnosed, meaning most symptoms go untreated. Concussions vary in terms of symptoms and severity. Symptoms aren’t just physical – they can also be emotional. 


What causes concussions? 

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a hit to the body. It results in the head moving rapidly back and forth. The impact causes changes in brain function that last anywhere from minutes to weeks. In some cases, there may be prolonged complications.  


Common signs of a concussion 

It is a common misconception that most people lose consciousness when they suffer a concussion; in fact, many symptoms can take up to an hour to arise and some could even take days to show.  

Fewer than 10% of sports-related concussions involve a loss of consciousness.  

Common symptoms of concussions include:  

  • Headache 
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue or drowsiness 
  • Ringing in the ears 
  • Memory problems 
  • Difficulty with high level thinking/problem-solving 
  • Behavior or emotional changes 
  • Just not “feeling right” 


What to do following a concussion 

After a traumatic hit to the head, athletes should immediately be removed from play. The next few days, it is common to feel a little “off” as symptoms usually take about 1-2 weeks to go away for adults and at times 3-4 weeks for children.  

Allow children to rest following the injury, with a gradual increase in mental and physical activities over the following days. 

“Especially with children, it’s best to get an immediate evaluation by a medical professional,” says Dr. Bridget Rizik, rehabilitation physician for the concussion program. “Children should stop participation in any sporting event the day of a concussion.” 

With younger athletes who have developing brains, it’s important to take precautions to avoid potential long-term effects of a concussion. 


Concussion evaluation and treatment 

Most concussion-related symptoms will resolve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, symptoms can persist for several weeks.  

“Without proper treatment of a concussion, a mild head injury could turn catastrophic,” explained Dr. Rizik. “Suffering a second hit to the head before a concussion is fully healed could result in  second impact syndrome (SIS), which can cause the brain to swell at a rapid rate. Though rare, it is important to be aware of.” 


Ask For Mary: Sports Concussion Program 

At Mary Free Bed, athletes work with a team of experts who are specially trained in concussions and use advanced technology and techniques to identify and treat them. Our sports concussion team works with the family, coaches and trainers in a customized return-to-play program.  

Concussion team at Mary Free Bed are led by a physiatrist – a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation – and may also include a: 

  • Physical Therapist 
  • Occupational Therapist 
  • Speech-Language Pathologist 
  • Recreational Therapist 
  • Psychologist   


Connect with Concussion Experts 

At Mary Free Bed, our Sports Concussion Program is customized for each athlete to ensure the patient is getting the rehabilitation care they need for their specific symptoms. It’s our goal to get the athlete back to the sport they love. 

Treatment progressively reintroduces athletes to activity. Most athletes can complete these steps over a period of 1-2 weeks, provided they remain symptom-free during their recovery. 


Sports Concussion Program 

Find out more about Mary Free Bed’s Sports Rehabilitation and the Sports Concussion Program and how it could help your athlete. Call us at 616.840.PLAY (7529) or make an appointment here. 


Pediatric Concussion Clinic 

The Pediatric Concussion Clinic at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital evaluates children who have prolonged or complicated recovery from concussion. For more information, call us at 616-840-8005.