American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

How to Improve Recovery and Long Term Effects of Concussions

Oct. 28, 2014                            

What Student Athletes Need to Know

(SEATTLE)— A concussion, considered a traumatic brain injury or TBI, is most common in children and teenagers, and can take longer to recover from than adults. One osteopathic physician (DO) proposes that osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can reduce recovery time and long term side effects of concussions, which are often under-diagnosed and can cause serious health problems later in life.

Brett DeGooyer, DO, an AOA board-certified physician in family and neuro musculoskeletal medicine, recently presented on how OMT can help speed recovery time from a concussion or C-Spine injury at American Osteopathic Association’s OMED 2014, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition in Seattle.

“More can be done to treat concussions than just restrict activity.  There are skills I’ve learned in osteopathic medical school and practice that can give patients relief, help speed healing, and get them back to living their lives normally sooner,” said Dr. DeGooyer, who currently is serving a fellowship in sports medicine at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million sport-related concussions occur annually, and that due to underreporting rates may be double.  Sports and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, are most common in children from birth to 19 years according to the CDC.

A concussion is an injury to the brain, caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, where most people don’t lose consciousness.  Recognition and proper response to concussions when they occur can help prevent further injury and long-term side effects—but many parents are unsure of what the symptoms and risks may be. 

According to a recent AOA survey of parents about sports-related injuries in their children, 70% of parents with a child in at least one sport said their child’s coach or trainer has never had a conversation with them about their child’s potential injuries; yet 58% were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about their child being injured in sports or other physical activities.

For patients who do suffer a concussion, most are recommended to restrict activity for 7 to 10 days.  Dr. DeGooyer maintains that concussions are not just an anatomic problem, but a functional one as well, and can be helped with a functional treatment approach to maximize the body’s efficiency in overcoming the problem through OMT.

To reduce recovery time from concussions, Dr. DeGooyer recommends the following:

  • Rest.  The patient should rest the brain, body and emotions with sleep and limited noise and bright light for the first 24-48 hours after the diagnosis. This also means staying home from school, work and/or practice.
  • Undergo OMT.  Next, see an osteopathic physician to use OMT to work on and adjust the muscles the patient needs to relax.  This helps get the fluids and blood moving in the body, and helps with the respiratory and nervous systems, so that the body can adjust and overcome the damage incurred by the concussion.
  • Hydrate.  A concussion happens when fluid to the brain isn’t moving, so patients should drink more liquids, especially water.
  • Carb load.  After a concussion, a brain is “starving” for energy.  It needs some quick fuel so it can recover.  Eating multi-grain breads and pastas are good for this.
  • Be evaluated every 48-72 hours after for 7 to 10 days.  During follow up visits with the doctor, the patient may undergo additional OMT to ensure the body is healing efficiently as possible.  

“Osteopathic manipulative treatment is different than other therapies in that we are fully-trained and board-certified physicians, so we understand and can enhance the body’s natural mechanisms to heal itself, and prescribe medicines if needed.  It’s a more efficient treatment,” said Dr. DeGooyer.

When Dr. DeGooyer uses OMT to treat concussions, he sees marked improvement in 48 hours and says patients need 3 to 5 fewer days to recover.   He also believes that increased use of OMT will decrease the number of people who will suffer long-term effects of concussions.

“About 2% of all people with concussions take longer than 10 days to recover.  With increased use and awareness of OMT treatment, I’d like to see that number go down to 1% or lower,” he said.  

To Play or Not to Play

 “I recommend that if a parent, trainer or coach suspects a concussion, they pull the player and not have them go back on the field or court for 24 hours as a precaution,” said Dr. DeGooyer.

Dr. DeGooyer, a father of six kids and a team physician, understands what it’s like to be the bad guy who needs to pull out a star player during a key game—but he says he does what’s in the best interest for the athlete, not just the moment.

He believes professional and college leagues can do more and put forth stronger guidelines that they are more vocal about, so that change starts to happen from the top down. “If leagues like the NFL had a zero tolerance for concussions, it will trickle down and then change will start to happen.  It won’t prevent concussions, but we can start doing what’s right by the athletes,” he said. 

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at


Media Contact:  

Nicole Grady  
(312) 202-8038

Twitter: @AOAforMedia


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