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Cervicovestibular rehabilitation in sport-related concussion: a randomised controlled trial


Background/aim Concussion is a common injury in sport. Most individuals recover in 7–10 days but some have persistent symptoms. The objective of this study was to determine if a combination of vestibular rehabilitation and cervical spine physiotherapy decreased the time until medical clearance in individuals with prolonged postconcussion symptoms.

Methods This study was a randomised controlled trial. Consecutive patients with persistent symptoms of dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following a sport-related concussion (12–30 years, 18 male and 13 female) were randomised to the control or intervention group. Both groups received weekly sessions with a physiotherapist for 8 weeks or until the time of medical clearance. Both groups received postural education, range of motion exercises and cognitive and physical rest until asymptomatic followed by a protocol of graded exertion. The intervention group also received cervical spine and vestibular rehabilitation. The primary outcome of interest was medical clearance to return to sport, which was evaluated by a study sport medicine physician who was blinded to the treatment group.

Results In the treatment group, 73% (11/15) of the participants were medically cleared within 8 weeks of initiation of treatment, compared with 7% (1/14) in the control group. Using an intention to treat analysis, individuals in the treatment group were 3.91 (95% CI 1.34 to 11.34) times more likely to be medically cleared by 8 weeks.

Conclusions A combination of cervical and vestibular physiotherapy decreased time to medical clearance to return to sport in youth and young adults with persistent symptoms of dizziness, neck pain and/or headaches following a sport-related concussion.

Trial registration number NCT01860755.

  • Concussion
  • Physiotherapy
  • Sporting injuries
  • Sports physiotherapy

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