Keeping Ahead of Concussions
Friday, January 30, 2015 10:21 PM

Sports chiropractor Matt Miller demonstrates a motor-strength grip test in his Orillia office. Miller runs a Complete Concussion Management program that encourages athletes to do baseline tests, including the grip test, so they can be better monitored throughout the healing process if they incur head injuries.

Every concussion is different. To monitor patients’ progress as they recover, it’s helpful to have records of what they were like before they incurred their head injuries, said Orillia-based sports chiropractor Matt Miller.

Miller operates one of Canada’s 90 Complete Concussion Management (CCM) clinics out of his Albert Street office.

With hockey season and full swing and soccer and lacrosse seasons not far behind, Miller said this is the time of year patients with head injuries start coming in.

Miller tests young athletes’ vision, hearing, concentration, memory, balance, reaction time and strength. He also does a mental-status exam and checks neuro-cognitive function.  “There, you kind of get a snapshot,” Miller said, adding one of the biggest problems with concussions is managing them, which is done most effectively and accurately if there’s a baseline to go by as the patient recovers.  Last year, Miller performed baseline tests on 30 local athletes. Five or six of them came back with head injuries.  Symptoms alone are not good indicators, he said.

“Even though someone’s not exhibiting any symptoms, inside their brain, there may still be problems,” he said.  “You have to make sure that they don’t go back to school too soon, that they don’t go back to play too soon,” he added.  For example, a patient might think he or she feels fine a few days after a concussion while sitting in the office, but when the patient does a grip test to check motor strength, it can show his or her motor strength is much lower than it was before, Miller said, which is usually an indicator there’s more healing to be done.

“It’s timing,” Miller said. “Obviously, time is what people need after a concussion.”

Miller also treats post-concussion patients without baselines following the same steps, but he said it’s more difficult.  “You don’t know what their brains were really like before,” he said, adding, in those instances, he has to “err on the side of caution” and the recovery is usually more drawn out.

Recent medical and chiropractic research looks at the relationship between cervical spine injuries and concussions.  “You can kind of take away the chiropractic component of it,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll get people (who think), ‘A chiropractor’s managing this. I don’t want to go see a chiropractor.’ There’s noting really specifically chiropractic that I’m doing.”

While about 90% of concussions heal within two weeks, there’s the 10% that don’t, and Miller said recognizing early concussion symptoms and treating them help reduce the risk of more long-term complications like post-concussion syndrome.