Can vestibular rehabilitation exercises help patients with concussion? A systematic review

Concussion symptoms normally resolve within 7-10 days but vertigo, dizziness and balance dysfunction persist in 10-30% of cases causing significant morbidity. This study systematically evaluated the evidence supporting the efficacy, prescription and progression patterns of vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) in patients with concussion. Following a double review of abstract and full-text articles, 10 studies met the inclusion criteria: randomised controlled trial (n=2), uncontrolled studies (n=3) and case studies (n=5). 4 studies evaluated VRT as a single intervention. 6 studies incorporated VRT in multimodal interventions (including manual therapy, strength training, occupational tasks, counselling or medication). 9 studies reported improvement in outcomes but level I evidence from only 1 study was found that demonstrated increased rates (OR 3.91; 95% CI 1.34 to 11.34; p=0.002) of medical clearance for return to sport within 8 weeks, when VRT (combined with cervical therapy) was compared with usual care. Heterogeneity in study type and outcomes precluded meta-analysis. Habituation and adaptation exercises were employed in 8 studies and balance exercises in 9 studies. Prescription and progression patterns lacked standardisation.

Current evidence for optimal prescription and efficacy of VRT in patients with mTBI/concussion is limited. Available evidence, although weak, shows promise in this population. Further high-level studies evaluating the effects of VRT in patients with mTBI/concussion with vestibular and/or balance dysfunction are required.

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