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APRIL 26, 2019



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Post-Concussion Syndrome Can Pose Serious Risk for Student Athletes — Get Expert Treatment

Sittser in white playing defense, voted most improved player after recovery.

Sittser in black at League, she took 2nd place after recovery.

Ysabel Sittser was a shining high school athlete. A longtime wrestler, she had various athletic accolades, including being named the most valuable player on her swim team. But her athletic career was cut short two years ago when she suffered a concussion during a wrestling match her sophomore year.

She also learned that her headaches were the body’s way of getting her to shut down and get the cognitive rest she needed. Because concussions can result in neurometabolic impairment or neurochemical abnormalities, the brain requires cognitive rest — abstention from any mental challenges.

Like many other athletes, Sittser had a general assessment on the sidelines — and was released back to sports a week later. For most people, recovery from a concussion (also called mild traumatic brain injury or mTBI) is relatively fast. But for some, it can cause significant, long-term deficits. Sittser, who was not retested for post-concussion signs, soon began having daily headaches.

Concussions are common in school athletics and in recreational sports. However, researchers estimate that about half of the 3.8 million annual sports-related concussions go unreported.

concussion symptoms include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, balance issues and trouble concentrating. Other frequent symptoms may include mood disturbances, sensitivity to light and sound, and sleep problems.

“I couldn’t do anything an entire spring and summer,” she says. “But I’m back to my life now and I can function again. I never would have gotten better without my concussion team.”

The sports that see the largest share of concussions are football, lacrosse, girls’ soccer, boys’ wrestling and girls’ basketball, according to Dr. Peter Lundblad, family physician and sports medicine doctor at Northwest Family Medicine Residency based at CHI Franciscan’s Harrison Medical Center.

KPT now has two teams, located in Bremerton and Poulsbo, who are certified in post-concussion management. Each two-

But other sports can result in concussions as well — and in fact, you don’t have to be an athlete to be injured.

Parents, coaches, athletic trainers and teachers need to be aware of the symptoms and make sure the injured athlete receives the proper assessment and treatment quickly. Because sports concussions are unique, they require a multidisciplinary approach. It’s important to seek treatment from a team that has the expertise and training in concussion management.

“I started having this irritating headache every day about half way through the day but I kept going to practice,” she says. For the next year, as she continued to see numerous specialists including a neurologist, her headaches progressed to daily incapacitating migraines. They were so crippling that she had to stop going to school and spent most of her time in her darkened room avoiding any visual or auditory stimuli. “I couldn’t function. I was dizzy, confused and in pain all the time,” Sittser says. “I also became depressed because I couldn’t do my daily tasks or play sports. I started having cognitive issues, I couldn’t remember things or focus on anything. I started to have passive suicidal thoughts, I just wanted the pain to stop.” It took a year, but Sittser finally received the proper assessment for post-concussion syndrome and a treatment regimen — after her family learned that Kitsap Physical Therapy (KPT) had a team who are certified vestibular and concussion management specialists and are trained in evidence-based protocols for treatment.

person team assesses patients for neurocognitive and vestibular functioning, and then prescribes evidence-based interventions. The assessments include, among other things, cognitive performance, vestibular status and activity tolerance.

“One of our goals in rehab is to reduce the risk of a second impact. Often when it occurs the second impact is not related to sport and may be due to slowed reaction time or impaired attention, says Jennifer Edwards, KPT physical therapist who is part of one post-concussion management team. “We also worry about kids falling behind in school because of visual and/or cognitive problems. We can help improve oculomotor function as well as cognition to improve school and work performance.”

“It doesn’t have to be a hit to the head, but can be something that creates a jolt to the head,” Dr. Lundblad says. “There’s also usually a rotational component or body motion.” He says that individuals who suffer concussions usually realize something doesn’t feel right immediately or within a few minutes. They typically feel foggy, dazed and/or stunned. “There’s some degree of altered sensorium and then the person will develop any number of symptoms,” he says. According to the American Institute of Balance, the most common initial post-

“If your student athlete still has trouble concentrating and has other cognitive deficits that don’t get resolved after the first few weeks, physical and occupational therapy can be very beneficial,” says Erin Jackson, KPT occupational therapist who works on the team with Edwards. “Sometimes the complaint can be quite subtle, like feeling they can’t concentrate at school or being nauseous in the car. These are things that can be easily missed, and adults need to be aware of them.” The Kitsap Sports Concussion Clinic located in Silverdale is the first of its kind in the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsula regions. Dr. Lundblad and his colleague Dr. Eduardo Garza specialize in athletic related concussions. They strive to properly diagnose them and work together with a team of providers that often include KPT’s concussion specialists for treatment of student athletes who are suffering with postconcussion syndrome. Now student athletes can get the expert help they need right here in their own community.

Sittser says, “I am so thankful to Dr. Lundblad and the KPT team, they helped me to understand my condition and encouraged me through treatment, they literally saved my life.”

Paid for by: Kitsap Physical Therapy & Sports

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Healthy Living - Spring 2019  


Healthy Living - Spring 2019