Physical and cognitive rest are traditionally what doctors prescribe for patients who suffer sport-related concussions. But a new approach to treating post-concussion syndrome may actually help athletes get back in the game quicker, according to Karl Kozlowski, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.
Kozlowski is pioneering a treatment program for patients who suffer from post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS is defined as three or more concussion symptoms that persist at least three weeks after the injury. Past treatments for the condition have failed to demonstrate success. Kozlowski’s treatment, which prescribes a regulated exercise routine, is among the first to offer real hope to those who suffer.
“We started out wanting to determine if athletes who suffer from post-concussion syndrome could exercise at a level that wouldn’t bring out symptoms but would allow them to stay conditioned while recuperating,” says Kozlowski.
To do this, Kozlowski and his co-researchers tested patients’ threshold for exercise. From that, they developed a low-level workout program (maybe 10 or 15 minutes) for each. Patients were asked to keep track of their symptoms and within three weeks, they reported feeling better. New regimens were tailored and after several months of this routine, concussion symptoms were significantly reduced or went away entirely for the patients.
“We found that gradual exercise, rather than rest alone, actually helps to restore the balance of the brain’s auto-regulation mechanism, which controls the blood pressure and supply to the brain,” says Kozlowski.
While confident the new treatment can help reduce concussion symptoms, Kozlowski emphasizes that it’s too soon to call the exercise treatment a cure, as some patients respond faster or better than others.