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Exertion Therapy

What Is Exertion Therapy?

Exertion therapy is a guided return to sport program, or an introduction to exercise, for people who have had a concussion.

The experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program may prescribe this treatment to help:

  • Reduce worry or stress that comes from getting a concussion.
  • Decrease concussion symptoms for people who have manual labor jobs.
  • Reduce symptoms in non-athletes who suffer from doing daily tasks, such as walking the dog.
  • Get athletes back to play in a safe manner.
  • Improve recovery for those who jumped back into their routine too soon.

Our exertion therapists will use aerobic and strength exercises to rehabilitate your vestibular system.

Near the end of treatment, we'll test you to ensure your symptoms don't appear when you return to your sport or routine.

Contact the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program

To learn more about concussion treatment or make an appointment with a UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program expert:

Who Can Exertion Therapy Help?

It can help anyone who's had a concussion.

While exertion therapy does help athletes, it can also help those who:

  • Like taking fitness classes or working out a few times a week but aren't sure where to start after a concussion.
  • Don't take part in consistent physical activity but suffer from concussion symptoms while trying to go about their daily lives.

Sometimes, people worry that exertion therapy will force them to work at a higher level of fitness than they ever have before.

Our therapists make sure that all exercises are within your skillset. They'll never push you to do anything outside your comfort zone — whether you're an elite athlete or someone who's mildly active.

What to Expect During Exertion Therapy

During your first session, your physical therapist will check your vital signs and ask you to describe your symptoms.

We'll also discuss the reasoning behind the exertion therapy prescription.

Next, you'll take part in a vestibular ocular motor screening (VOMS) and a neck screening to check for cervical damage.

Once you finish all initial tests, you'll start a basic series of exertion therapy exercises that involve:

  • Rotation — such as ball chops, lifts, and lunges with torso rotations.
  • Cardio — which includes using the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or even going for a light walk.

The exertion therapy session will continue as long as you feel comfortable and can complete the exercises. Once you're done, your therapist will assess your progress and give you exercises to work on at home.

You'll have follow-up appointments about once a week, or more, based on the severity of your symptoms.

Why Choose the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program for Exertion Therapy?

Our concussion experts and exertion therapists:

  • Provide world-class, comprehensive concussion care.
  • Use a team approach to concussion treatment, tailored to your personal needs.
  • Are in constant contact about your progress.
  • Make sure you have a seamless transition of care. 

Learn More About Concussions

When is someone recovered?

Concussion Basics