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Concussion Management — Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery
What is Concussion?
After sustaining a head injury, some people do not realize they may have suffered a concussion. The effects don’t always reveal themselves immediately, and that is because, just like other types of injuries, the brain can get shaken up or swollen. Another misconception is that people always pass out when they have a concussion. Although this can happen, sometimes there are no visible signs of an injury to the brain. A person might have mild symptoms, or they may experience symptoms for days or weeks thereafter.
Even if you feel fine after a head injury, it is wise to check with a physician, particularly one who is trained in sports medicine. The physical, emotional and mental effects can last months or years if a concussion is left untreated.
It is important to remember that concussion symptoms may differ from person to person. Some experience a loss of consciousness, while others don’t. In most cases, this injury is not life-threatening, but there are warning symptoms of a head injury, and if you have them, you should immediately seek medical attention. Usually the signs of a concussion appear minutes after the injury, but they can change with time.
There are several types of mild concussion symptoms.
The first group comprises physical symptoms such as temporary loss of consciousness, sensitivity to light, dizziness, balance problems, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, vision troubles (double or blurred vision) and headache, problems with sleeping, feeling disoriented or confused.
The second one consists of emotional symptoms including anxiety, sadness, and moodiness.
Cognitive symptoms include difficulty paying attention and memory issues.
There are several recovery symptoms for concussion. They include irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches and sensitivity to light.
In babies and children, the head injury symptoms may differ. They may also experience vomiting, irritability, drowsiness, dilated pupils, blank stare, and trouble sleeping.
If you have reasons to think that the concussion was accompanied by a spinal injury, you should immediately call a doctor. If the injured person doesn’t wake up, bleeds from their nose or ears, has slurred speech, seizures or vomiting, these are also reasons to seek immediate medical help.
Concussions can be caused by different reasons, but it’s always connected with an injury to the head. Usually such traumas happened after falling down, being in a car accident, or getting hit in the head.
Let’s cover the concussion definition. It happens when the brain, which consists of soft tissue and typically floats in fluid inside the skull, suddenly hits the side of the skull. It damages brain tissue and can lead to concussions. It also stretches and damages brain cells, which results in a chemical change in the brain. Such chemical changes can disturb normal brain activity and functions. Such an injury usually happens to the opposite side of the brain from the one that was hit, which influences the symptoms a person experiences. Because these different brain areas are responsible for different functions, the damage can be on different areas and result in different symptoms, so the exact place of the hit matters.
If you think you have a concussion, or you saw someone else getting hurt, immediately seek medical help.
Among the things that increase the risk for a concussion are falls in adults and children, playing a contact sport, participating in sports and other dangerous activities without using proper safety gear, getting in a car, motorcycle, bicycle or other accident.
Even though in most cases a concussion is not a serious issue characterized by mild concussion symptoms, and you can fully recover from it, you still need to seek medical attention after a head injury.
A doctor will have a list of questions about the exact way you got hit. They will also ask about your symptoms and some personal information to evaluate memory and concentration that can be affected by the injury.
A physical exam is a normal step in the diagnosis process, it includes balance and vision tests to see the changes in pupils size, eye movement, and to determine light or noise sensitivity.
After collecting a medical history, a doctor performs coordination and reflex tests to understand the functions of the central nervous system. It is usually called a neurological exam that checks neurological functions, vision, reaction to light, balance, and coordination and hearing, as well as strength.
Also, there can be some written tests or tests via computer to check your state of problem-solving skills, memory, and ability to concentrate and think. In some cases, there’s a need for a CT scan or an MRI to rule out serious brain injuries.
Depending on the symptoms, some other procedures can be performed. For example, if a patient has seizures, the doctor usually needs the results of an electroencephalogram, which checks brain waves.
For professional athletes, there is a special test to determine whether the person can return to their sport. This is an ImPACT neuropsychological test. It’s a computerized test that measures the athlete’s memory, including visual and verbal memory, and reaction time.
It is a myth that a concussion leads to hospitalization. In most cases, it’s not needed. Recognizing a concussion quickly is the key to effective treatment. There is a special concussion protocol which covers treatment steps. If the concussion was mild, you’ll need to monitor your minor concussion symptoms for a couple of days. There are several stages of concussion recovery. The typical recovery or treatment consists of taking a break to properly heal, take prescribed medications for pain and reduce the chance of a repeat concussion, as they are extremely harmful and cause long-term damage.
Avoiding drinking alcohol and driving are usually recommended during recovery, as well as drinking enough water and getting rest, not only from physical activity, but also from brain activities and other work.
In rare cases, a patient needs surgery. It is recommended if you have bleeding in the brain or swelling, or other serious injury in the brain.
To sum up, the typical treatment involves resting for some time to let your brain heal itself. After a couple of days of rest, you can slowly return to normal activities to promote recovery. As you get better, you can add more activities and return to your normal life.
The best way to recover quickly is with rest, but our sports medicine team also uses cutting edge methods for faster healing from a concussion. If you do hit your head but are not sure whether you’ve had a concussion or not, see one of our physicians for a checkup within 48 hours of the injury. It is better to be safe than sorry. Once we determine you may have sustained a head injury, we can start testing and treating it promptly. Do not participate in any mentally taxing activities, such as using the computer, playing loud music or games, wearing headphones, doing homework or exercise programs, etc. It may be tough to give up these activities, but rest assured this is one critical step in the healing process. Your brain needs time to rest.
Most of the complications happen after multiple concussions, so the main thing is to reduce the chance of multiple concussions. So, if you are an athlete, you shouldn’t go back to your normal activities without the permission of a doctor. Remember that a second concussion, that happens before the first one has healed, can increase the chance of severe brain swelling, which can be fatal.
Other complications include post concussion syndrome, which makes a patient experience the post concussion symptoms for much longer, for example, for weeks instead of days. It can happen in athletes who return to sports too fast.
Another common complication after a concussion are headaches that can last for several months.
Vertigo, which causes dizziness, can also start after the concussion.
As we always say, it is easier to prevent something than to treat it. But in this case, it is quite tough to prevent a concussion, as it is usually some kind of accident. But there are ways to reduce the chance of such an accident.
The first step is to wear quality protective equipment during sports and physical activity. While riding a bicycle, playing football or hockey, boxing or during skating, it is very important to wear a helmet. If you ride a motorcycle or like to ski, it makes sense to invest in the best-quality gear you can afford, as sometimes it saves lives, not just concussions.
An important thing to remember is proper sizing, so try not to order protective gear online, but instead go to the offline shop to ensure that you have a perfect fit. Otherwise, the equipment might not work properly, or not work at all.
Refraining from certain activities can reduce the chance of a concussion. For example, keep away from fights. You should also drive smart and strictly follow the rules, especially those involving not driving if you’ve used drugs or alcohol. Of course, always wear a seatbelt in the car.
Another tip is to make your home a safer place. Try to keep clutter away from the floor, so that you don’t step on it and fall. The same thing is with baby-proofing.
You should install baby proof safety equipment on windows and stairs so that a child doesn’t fall and get injured. Fixing lighting is another way to make your home safer.
The last tip is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate moderate physical activity in your life to strengthen neck muscles, as well as a healthy and balanced diet with good levels of vitamin D, Zinc, and Calcium. Sports Medicine