Review of Vestibular and Oculomotor Screening and Concussion Rehabilitation

J Athl Train. 2017 Mar;52(3):256-261. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-51.11.05.


Vestibular and oculomotor impairment and symptoms may be associated with worse outcomes after sport-related concussion (SRC), including prolonged recovery. In this review, we evaluate current findings on vestibular and oculomotor impairments as well as treatment approaches after SRC, and we highlight areas in which investigation is needed. Clinical researchers have intimated that recovery from SRC may follow certain clinical profiles that affect the vestibular and oculomotor pathways. Identifying clinical profiles may help to inform better treatment and earlier intervention to reduce recovery time after SRC. As such, screening for and subsequent monitoring of vestibular and oculomotor impairment and symptoms are critical to assessing and informing subsequent referral, treatment, and return to play. However, until recently, no brief-screening vestibular and oculomotor tools were available to evaluate this injury. In response, researchers and clinicians partnered to develop the Vestibular/Ocular-Motor Screening, which assesses pursuits, saccades, vestibular ocular reflex, visual motion sensitivity, and convergence via symptom provocation and measurement of near-point convergence. Other specialized tools, such as the King-Devick test for saccadic eye movements and the Dizziness Handicap Inventory for dizziness, may provide additional information regarding specific impairments and symptoms. Tools such as the Vestibular/Ocular-Motor Screening provide information to guide specialized referrals for additional assessment and targeted rehabilitation. Vestibular rehabilitation and visual-oculomotor therapies involve an active, expose-recover approach to reduce impairment and symptoms. Initial results support the effectiveness of both vestibular and visual-oculomotor therapies, especially those that target specific impairments. However, the evidence supporting rehabilitation strategies for both vestibular and oculomotor impairment and symptoms is limited and involves small sample sizes, combined therapies, nonrandomized treatment groups, and lack of controls. Additional studies on the effectiveness of screening tools and rehabilitation strategies for both vestibular and oculomotor impairment and symptoms after SRC are warranted.

Keywords: assessment; return to play; therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / complications*
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Brain Concussion / complications*
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis
  • Brain Concussion / rehabilitation
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oculomotor Nerve Diseases / diagnosis
  • Oculomotor Nerve Diseases / etiology*
  • Oculomotor Nerve Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / complications
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome / rehabilitation
  • Return to Sport / physiology
  • Sports / physiology
  • Vestibular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Vestibular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vestibular Diseases / rehabilitation