The researchers developed their program in 2004. "We were testing athletes for return to sport using an exercise test," says Willer, "and we decided that if an athlete becomes symptomatic at a heart rate of, say, 140, maybe they could exercise at a heart rate of 125, without complications. We soon discovered that the athletes got better much quicker if they exercised."
Physicians in UB's Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic initially used their approach only with athletes from UB teams, but word spread, and they now have assessed and treated many professional athletes, especially those from the National Hockey League.
"One of the advantages we offer to professional teams is a more precise test of post-concussion syndrome," says Leddy. "If the patient does not develop symptoms during the exercise test, then the cause of their difficulties is likely to be another source. Most commonly it is neck strain, which tends to cause headaches that mimic post-concussion headache."
For the preliminary study just published, the researchers enrolled six non-athletes who suffered concussions in auto accidents or falls, along with six athletes, five who were injured in their sport and one in a car accident.
Participants were tested initially on a treadmill to determine the exercise intensity that triggered symptoms. With individual baselines established, each participant exercised at 80 percent of that intensity every day for three weeks and then returned for a repeat test. In most instances, retesting demonstrated that participants could work at a higher intensity and the exercise protocol then was increased. This pattern continued until participants could exercise completely without experiencing PCS symptoms.
As might be expected, the athletes recovered more quickly than the non-athletes, results showed. They
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University at Buffalo