Expert treatment for concussions

One minute you’re chasing the puck or biking your favorite trail. The next minute, a body check into the boards or a fall off your bike can cause you to bump your head and get a concussion – bringing on physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms that make getting back to your favorite physical activities difficult.

At TRIA, we have a team of neuropsychologists, sports medicine doctors, physical therapists and athletic trainers who specialize in getting you back to play. We’ll work with you to create a personalized treatment plan to help you return to your sport or favorite activities safely and as quickly as possible.

With the innovative treatment options found through our Sport Concussion Program, we’re regional leaders in treating concussions. And as part of HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we can connect you to neurologists and other specialists, if needed. No matter what you’re here for, you can expect world class care from the moment you walk through the doors.

"The care and treatment I received from the entire staff was nothing but outstanding."

Emergency care for concussions

If you or someone you know is experiencing any Concussion Danger Signs, call 911 right away.

What is a concussion?

The skull acts as a hard shell around the brain, protecting it from most injuries. Inside your skull, the brain floats in fluid. Sometimes, a blow to the head or a hard jolt to the body can cause the brain to bump against the inside of the skull, causing a concussion.

A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in a temporary change of normal brain function. It may affect the way the brain functions and processes sensory information, emotions, behaviors, balance, vision, memory and learning. This is referred to as a “functional injury” not a “structural injury.”

Concussions can cause physical, cognitive, mood and sleep-related symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, confusion, imbalance and visual disturbance. The signs and symptoms of a concussion can occur minutes or hours after the injury happens, and no two concussions are exactly alike – symptoms will look a little different for each person. Concussion symptoms may also appear as mental fogginess, difficulty concentrating, sleep disruptions, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, irritability or feeling more emotional than usual.

Just as concussion symptoms are a little different for everyone, recovery times will also vary from person to person. In most cases, symptoms heal in one to three weeks, but there are many factors that affect how quickly someone recovers from a concussion, including age.

After a concussion, we’ll work with athletes to make sure the injury has fully healed before returning to play. It’s important to get treatment for a sport concussion in order to prevent future injuries and lingering symptoms.

Protracted recovery

In some cases, concussion symptoms can linger longer than expected. This is protracted recovery, sometimes called post-concussion syndrome. Some people may continue to have headaches, difficulties concentrating, sleep disruptions, dizziness, and mood or behavioral changes more than three weeks after experiencing a sport concussion.

Our specialized approach can help you manage and recover from lingering concussion symptoms. We’ll provide care tailored to your specific needs to help you regain your quality of life and return to your sport or favorite activities.

Diagnosing concussions

When you visit the doctor for a concussion, we’ll start by asking you questions about your injury and symptoms. Then we’ll determine which tests are needed to diagnose the type and severity of your condition. Common tests include:

Neurological exam

This is an exam that you’ve likely had before at a checkup. During a neurological exam, we’ll check your balance, coordination and motor skills. We might use a small hammer to tap your joints to check your reflexes, shine a light into your eyes to check your pupils, and do other small, painless tests.

Cognitive testing

Concussions often come with cognitive symptoms such as memory issues and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms aren’t always obvious. We use cognitive testing to check for even subtle changes to your brain function.

During cognitive testing, we’ll ask you to perform different mental exercises. You might memorize a short list of words or do counting exercises. These exercises use different parts of your brain and help us make sure your brain is working as it should.

Treatment for concussions

In many cases, concussions will heal on their own over time. However, specialized treatment may be needed to help manage more severe symptoms. Here are some of the treatments we commonly use at TRIA:

Neuropsychology

Unique to TRIA’s Sport Concussion Program, our neuropsychologists specialize in assessing and treating concussions. We use a variety of tests designed to evaluate common cognitive symptoms that follow a concussion like difficulties concentrating, memory concerns and psychosocial factors that may impact recovery.

Our neuropsychologists will guide you toward the best treatment options and through challenges at school or work. We’ll also help you with social or behavioral modifications that will keep you more comfortable. And we’ll work with you to help prevent future injuries, determine the next steps in your treatment plan and make decisions about returning to play.

Physical therapy

Post-concussion symptoms like dizziness, imbalance, visual concerns and difficulties focusing can make recovery difficult. Our physical therapy specialists have advanced training in vestibular and ocular motor therapy, a type of physical therapy that treats these issues. We’ll work with you and tailor treatments specifically to your sport and unique needs. In most cases, you’ll have weekly visits with one of our physical therapists, along with prescribed home exercise programs.

Our physical therapy specialists also have advanced training in assessing and managing neck-related injuries that can occur with concussion. Neck and spine injuries can cause pain, discomfort, limited range of motion, headaches and dizziness. Treating all of your concerns is a key part of helping you recover from your injury. Addressing cervical spine problems and pain management during recovery is vital.

Physical exertion training and return to sport progression

Once concussion symptoms have resolved or stabilized, athletes are often encouraged to begin an exercise program or return-to-play plan. This will include exertion therapy.

Exertion therapy is an important treatment for people who have lingering concussion symptoms (protracted recovery). During this treatment, we’ll guide you through an individual treatment plan with exercises to help you rehabilitate. Our team specializes in designing sport-specific return-to-play plans to help you recover fully and safely get back in the game.

Medication

Medication is sometimes needed to help with headaches, sleep disturbance, mood concerns or cognitive difficulties. We’re experts in how to use medicines and supplements for concussion recovery.

If we prescribe medication, we’ll talk with you about what we’re prescribing and how it will help, making sure to answer any questions you have.

Integrative medicine

Integrative medicine is a holistic approach to managing uncomfortable symptoms like pain, sleep issues, headaches and stress. The benefits of integrative medicine are backed by science and can be a great complement to conventional medicine.

At TRIA, we offer several different types of integrative medicine, including yoga therapy, acupuncture and living well consults.

Counseling and sports psychology services

Changes in behavior and mood, like anxiety or irritability, can occur with concussion. These symptoms can arise from changes within the brain or the stress of being away from academic, exercise and sports routines. Our clinical sports neuropsychologists offer counseling and sports psychology services to help you recover from these changes and feel like yourself again.

If you need other mental health services, we’ll refer you to a specialist.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You should call 911 or seek emergency medical care for a head injury if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Dilated or uneven pupils
  • A headache that gets worse with time
  • Blood or fluids leaking from the nose or ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Difficulty walking or clumsiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Changes in behavior
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Lasting dizziness
  • Concussion symptoms that continue to worsen 

It’s important to take it easy and give yourself time to heal after a concussion. These are a few easy ways to care for yourself at home:

  • You should initially maintain physical and cognitive rest. Rest is a key factor in recovering from a brain injury. Do your best to get good sleep in the days following a concussion – though it’s important to try to stay on a normal schedule of being awake during the day and sleeping at night. However, many people experience difficulty sleeping after a concussion, which can make getting appropriate rest difficult. If you’re experiencing this symptom, consider scheduling an appointment with a concussion specialist.
  • Avoid screens for one or two days. Using screens can make headaches or eyestrain worse. Take a break from phones, computers and tablets for a couple days as you recover, if they make your symptoms worse.
  • Ease back into regular activities. In most cases, it’s safe to return to light physical and mental activity after a couple days. This includes regular household chores, going on light walks, and reading or watching TV. Take short rests between activities as needed.

Yes. Needing to avoid sleep after a concussion is a myth. There is no medical evidence to suggest that sleeping after a concussion increases your risk of severe health conditions. In fact, getting rest will actually help with your recovery!

If you’ve seen a doctor and confirmed no other treatment is needed, it’s safe to rest. But keep an eye out for dilated pupils, trouble walking or vomiting. These can be symptoms of a more serious head injury and you should seek emergency medical care.

No, you don’t need a referral to see a concussion specialist at TRIA. You can walk in to our orthopedic urgent care for immediate help or schedule an appointment with one of our concussion specialists.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, PreferredOne and many others.

You can check with your insurance to see if your plan covers part or all of the services needed. Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: