Use of Graded Exercise Testing in Concussion and Return-to-Activity Management

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Abstract

Concussion is a physiologic brain injury that produces systemic and cognitive symptoms. The metabolic and physiologic changes of concussion result in altered autonomic function and control of cerebral blood flow. Evaluation and treatment approaches based upon the physiology of concussion may therefore add a new dimension to concussion care. In this article, we discuss the use of a standard treadmill test, the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test (BCTT), in acute concussion and in postconcussion syndrome (PCS). The BCTT has been shown to diagnose physiologic dysfunction in concussion safely and reliably, differentiate it from other diagnoses (e.g., cervical injury), and quantify the clinical severity and exercise capacity of concussed patients. It is used in PCS to establish a safe aerobic exercise treatment program to help speed recovery and return to activity. The use of a provocative exercise test is consistent with world expert consensus opinion on establishing physiologic recovery from concussion.

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