By Anna Kilbourn, PT, DPT
You probably know concussions are serious for young athletes, but did you know concussions affect people of all ages? Researchers continue to study this challenging injury and bring cutting-edge technology to a clinic near you.
A concussion occurs when a person receives a bump or blow to their head or if a hit to their body causes their head to quickly move back and forth. This might happen during sports, falls, or car accidents.
Concussions cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Memory changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired problem solving
- Balance challenges
- Blurred vision
- Neck pain
Curious about how technology can help? Keep reading to learn about helmet sensors, neurocognitive testing software, eye-tracking goggles, and virtual reality systems.
Head impact sensors attach to helmets and measure forces on an athlete’s body. Athletes who play contact sports such as hockey, lacrosse, and American football can wear these sensors to track collisions and cumulative impacts over a competitive season.
Healthcare providers consider these measurements when deciding if an athlete needs further assessment for a concussion.
Neurocognitive Testing Software
Neurocognitive testing measures aspects of brain function such as memory, attention, reaction time, and spatial skills.
Although originally a paper and pencil type of test, computerized versions offer greater accuracy. Using a computerized test is faster, easier for your healthcare provider to administer, and more reliable than paper tests.
Some examples of this software are:
- Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT)
- Headminder Concussion Resolution Index (CRI)
Concussion affects the relationship between your eyes and your brain, which translates as visual blurring or dizziness. Eye-tracking technology uses infrared sensors and high-speed cameras to note eye position and eye movements.
A trained healthcare professional uses this information to guide your treatment and to help retrain the eyes to work normally. Improvements can also be measured so the healthcare professional knows when to make your treatments more challenging.
Virtual reality systems offer innovative ways to treat concussions. At Fyzical - Forest Grove, we’re proud to have a Virtualis MotionVR system. This state-of-the-art system provides a fun and immersive treatment experience for patients, all while being safely monitored by your physical therapist.
Worried about falling? Fear not. An overhead harness can be used if needed.
Our Virtualis MotionVR offers a variety of modules to treat different aspects of concussion recovery. In order for symptoms like motion sickness or poor balance to improve, therapists have to challenge the brain enough so it learns how to not overreact to small changes. This process is called habituation, and it is facilitated by the MotionVR system.
Worried this might be too much? Virtualis created this product to specifically help patients who experience dizziness in response to motion. They designed it so your physical therapist can easily adjust the difficulty settings and adapt it to your tolerance, including slowing down images to make it easier.
Virtual Reality in Forest Grove
Below are some examples of different modules provided on the Virtualis MotionVR system.
- BirdVR: Shift your weight side-to-side and forward and back to fly an eagle through rings that appear. The floor can feel solid beneath you, or your therapist can add challenge by allowing the floor to shift.
- SkiVR: Are you ready for the bunny slopes or black diamonds? This program takes balance training to another level as you ski between gates and react to a changing environment.
- Motion Program: Keep a ball in the middle of the virtual disc and be ready for varying movements of the floor beneath you.
Eye tracking & motion sickness:
- Head-eye coordination: Turning your head to keep a target on the moving planet trains neck mobility, dizziness, and visual blurring.
- Optikinetics: Specific to those with dizziness, these programs train the brain to react less to movement in your environment.
- Environmental Simulations: Crowds, subway stations, malls, cars – simulating visually busy environments allows your brain to experience and adapt to stimuli in a safe and gradual way.
Just like your regular treatments, your physical therapist personalizes virtual reality sessions to help you meet your individual recovery goals.
If you’ve suffered a concussion and want to know if virtual reality can be part of your treatment, contact us at FYZICAL - Forest Grove.
Anna Kilbourn, PT, DPT is a freelance writer and physical therapist.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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