Both Oscar McDonald and Ben Stratton have been the latest concussion victims.


Melbourne’s Oscar McDonald has returned this week after passing the concussion protocol tests adopted by AFL clubs. Unfortunately Hawks captain Ben Stratton missed the Easter Monday blockbuster clash against the Cats following his concussion sustained in round 4. Most players will miss a minimum of one game however some can miss weeks or even months following a concussion injury. In general adults will recover between 10-14 days and children within 4 weeks.

Sports related concussion (SRC) is classified as a traumatic brain injury induced by forces transmitted to the head. This can be caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head along with an associated whiplash injury to the neck.

Diagnosis of a concussion is based on symptoms rather than medical scans as the injury to the brain during a concussion results in a functional disturbance rather than a structural injury that would be seen on an MRI. Scans are however advisable to rule out any other injury to the brain or spine. It is therefore very important that any concussion or suspected concussion be assessed by a medical practitioner.

A SCAT5 is standardised evaluation tool used off-field by physiotherapist and/or the medical team after a suspected concussion incident. If a concussion is suspected then the player will not return to the field as in Ben Stratton who did not return to play after the heavy knock in the 3rd quarter against the Saints. Any player returning to play following a concussion is at high risk of physical injury and if there is any ‘doubt they should sit it out’.

Symptoms of concussion can result in a wide range of clinical signs and symptoms and a loss of consciousness does not need to occur.Symptoms that may present can include:

  • Neck pain and headache
  • Fogginess
  • Amnesia
  • Behavioural changes such as irritability
  • Cognitive impairment (slow reaction time)
  • Balance issues
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep/wake disturbances.


Treatment following a concussion is generally a period of physical and cognitive ‘brain’ rest for 24-48 hours. Thereafter an active recovery approach is adopted with a graded return to daily activities, School then onto sports related activities such training drills and finally full contact training as long as symptoms are not exacerbated with a minimum of 24 hrs between each stage in order to assess and monitor their progress and ability to cope with returning to play.

A physiotherapist role following concussion is generally associated with the concurrent whiplash injury that occurs to the neck. A physiotherapist can help improve neck pain, restore neck movement, reduce muscle spasm and assess and treat any balance disturbances or make referrals for further testing and management where required.

Our physiotherapists at Symmetry have access to Concussion Specialists who are trained comprehensively in post concussion assessment, treatment and guided return to daily activities, school and sport.

Kim Garland
Symmetry Physiotherapy