“If you’ve seen one concussion, you’ve seen one concussion”.

A practitioners guide to understanding, treating and recovering from persistent post-concussion symptoms

Here’s an eye-opener: helmets, despite their protective function, don’t actually prevent concussions. 

While they’re effective at absorbing impact and preventing skull fractures, they can’t entirely shield the brain from injury. Think of it like this: your brain, nestled in fluid, is like the yolk inside an eggshell. Even with the best protection, the biomechanical forces involved in a collision can still result in a concussion. 

Now, let’s talk about the prevalence of concussions. Concussions are more common than many realize, affecting nearly 1 in 4 Canadians. They can occur during physical sports, a simple slip while walking, or even mundane tasks like household chores. According to a 2022 report from Statistics Canada, a significant portion of concussions happened during routine activities rather than sports.

Understanding Concussions

A concussion is a type of brain injury caused by a sudden hit to the head, neck, or body. This impact sends a shockwave to the brain, triggering a chain reaction of chemical changes and potential disruptions to brain cell signaling, blood flow, and inflammation. Symptoms like headache, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbance, fogginess, and nausea may appear right away or develop gradually over the next few days following the impact. While standard brain imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs may not show any abnormalities at any point of recovery, approximately 70% of adults will recover within 2 weeks, while adolescents may take up to 4 weeks for physiological recovery. However, symptoms may persist.

Persistent Symptom Management

If you find yourself still experiencing symptoms beyond the typical recovery period, it’s often referred to in the literature as persistent post-concussion symptoms. Understanding why these symptoms persist can be complex, as every individual’s brain reacts differently. As a clinician, I’m reminded of the saying, “If you’ve seen one concussion, you’ve seen one concussion.” This highlights the uniqueness of each case I encounter. Research indicates that seeking help from a healthcare professional like a physiotherapist with experience in concussion management early on can significantly improve your chances of a swift recovery. 

The Recovery

It’s important not to blame yourself if you’re still dealing with lingering symptoms post-concussion. Remember, it’s not your fault, and there is hope for resolution. Seeking assessment from an experienced therapist is vital for identifying the root cause of your symptoms. These can stem from various sources, including the cervical spine, vestibular system, oculomotor system, autonomic system, migraine, or mood. As you can see, it can be complicated, as the subsystems may play off each other, making it harder to pinpoint where the persistent symptoms are coming from. Luckily, there are a battery of tests and questionnaires that can tease them out. To give yourself the best chance to recover, focus on these 5 things: daily exercise and activity, consistent sleep, hydration, regular nutritious meals, and stress management. Coupled with targeted interventions, increasing the threshold of any subsystems affected will put you on the path of recovery.


While the complexities of concussion symptoms may seem daunting, there is a path forward toward resolution and recovery. By seeking help from knowledgeable healthcare professionals and embracing comprehensive assessment techniques, individuals can gain insights into the root causes of their symptoms. 

Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with the right support and interventions, there is hope for a brighter, symptom-free future. 

Wishing you a day filled with wellness and resilience. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions! 

By: Kosta Ikonomou (Physiotherapist at West 8th/Ash & Clinical Specialist Sports Medicine & Concussion)