Exercise Program for a Client with a Concussion

I trained a client yesterday that was recovering from a concussion.

It has been some time since I had designed an exercise program for a client with a concussion.  When I worked in a Medical Rehabilitation Program and Occupational Rehabilitation Program, it was a regular thing.

Let me highlight a few things you need to keep in mind when training a client with a concussion.

4 Tips to Training a Client with a Concussion

#1 – Monitor their Heart Rate

Monitor the individual’s heart rate to see what level of heart rate they can tolerate before they start to feel concussive symptoms.

At a higher intensity of exercise, the increase in heart rate can lead to greater circulation to the head, which can lead to an increase in concussive symptoms.

Make sure you monitor their heart rate with a heart rate monitor or with the electronic read out on the cardiovascular machine.  Have them stay below a level of heart rate that brings on their concussive symptoms.

#2 – Length of time in the Gym

Start off with a short session and see how they feel after the session, later that evening and then the next morning.

Many times a concussive client’s symptoms will return later, after the exercise session.  Sometimes it can be a few hours later.

Ask your client to monitor their symptoms after the session.  This will give you a good idea if the amount of time in the gym is too much or too little for them.  If their symptoms return, there is a good chance the length of time in the gym was too long.  If the client does not experience symptoms, you can increase the time.

#3 – Minimal Head Movement

I focus on machines at the start because the body is supported and in many cases the head can be rested on a machine pad.

I avoid supine and prone machines and focus on seated machines.  The act of getting from standing to supine or prone can be difficult for a concussive client.  At the start avoid this movement, but in time, begin to add it in.

Using machine or seated exercises on a stability ball limits the head movement and decreases the risk of concussive symptoms.

#4 – Avoid the Treadmill

For someone that has a concussion, the treadmill may be way too much.

The mix of signals can bring on concussive symptoms.

I often start with the recumbent bike.  It keeps the head in more of a neutral position compared to an upright bike.

Make sure to get them to look ahead, as looking at a TV high on the ceiling can put their head into extension and bring on their concussive symptoms.

I hope these tips will help you when you have your next client that is recovering from a concussion.

Let me know what your tips are for working with a client with a concussion.  I know there are a number of readers that work with people who have been in motor vehicle accidents.

What are your tips?

Rick Kaselj, MS