In most cases, symptoms of a concussion will be gone 7 to 10 days after the incident. However, up to 20% of people may experience persisting symptoms that last for a much longer period of time. These individuals are at risk of developing what is called post-concussion syndrome (PCS). This happens when symptoms become chronic and recurrent over a period of months or even years.
Individuals affected by PCS are usually those who have sustained repeated trauma to the head. Furthermore, studies using neuropsychological evaluations have shown that chronic deficiencies related to memory and executive cognitive functions can be found in athletes who report having suffered multiple concussions.
According to Jotwani and Harmon (2010), PCS manifests itself with cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms that persist for at least 6 weeks after the initial concussion.
Many studies show that symptoms and cognitive deficits measured using neuropsychological tests can be explained by the following changes in the brain:
Until recently, few interventions proved to efficiently treat individuals affected by PCS. However, over the last
decade, several studies have demonstrated how progressive, submaximal exercise can be used as an effective rehabilitation method. When used as a therapy, physical activity significantly reduces post-concussion symptoms in both athletic and non-athletic populations who have sustained either a concussion or more serious trauma to the brain, and that regardless of age.
Increased blood flow, increased oxygenation of the brain, and stabilization of the central nervous system are a few of the reasons that explain the effectiveness of this intervention. However, in order to be effective, the rehabilitation program must be carefully planned and monitored by a healthcare professional having an expertise in exercise sciences and concussion management.