Concussion

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What is a concussion?

Most often caused by blows to the head, these traumatic brain injuries usually result in temporary symptoms but more serious concussions can do permanent damage. The majority of sports related concussions occur without loss of consciousness or obvious neurological signs.

A concussion is a mild brain injury.  It is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body or fall that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.   Often concussions are described as being “mild” but their effects can be serious.  You can lose consciousness or be “knocked out” as a result of a concussion but this is not true in most cases.

What should you do if you have had a concussion? Take care of yourself after the injury

Most individuals recover in 10–14 days. If symptoms listed below persist beyond that time frame, seek treatment from someone who understands brain injury. Take care of yourself after the injury and get evaluated by a medical professional.  Go to the emergency room or make an appointment with your primary care doctor.

Watch a Video- What Happens When You Have a Concussion 

The most common symptoms of a concussion?

Don't wait if you see any of the below danger signs!

            • Seizures (Convulsions) or Fixed Stares
            • Pupils that are different sizes
            • Blood or clear liquid from the nose or ears
            • Repeated vomiting
            • Severe headaches that get worse
            • Loss of consciousness
            • Sharply increased confusion, agitation, restlessness
            • Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
            • Slurred speech

What does recovery from concussion require?

Most people who have had a concussion recover quickly and fully, but for some people symptoms can last for days, weeks or longer.  After a brief period of rest during the acute phase (24–48 hours) after injury, patients can be encouraged to become gradually and progressively more active while staying below activity that worsens their cognitive and physical symptoms.

Recovery may be longer for the elderly, teens and young children. If you have had a concussion in the past you are at a higher risk to have another concussion and take longer to recover.  Some of the symptoms might show up right away or they may appear later, especially if you try to return to normal activity too quickly.

  • It’s OK to let them sleep.Not sleeping after a concussion or needing to wake an individual periodically is a myth; rest allows the brain to heal.  Slowly and gradually return to normal activity; if symptoms return or get worse, you are doing too much too soon.
  • Avoid physically demanding activities. If you are not back to 100%, you may be at risk for another concussion.
  • Avoid driving, riding a bike or operating equipment. You may not realize it but after a concussion your balance and reaction time can be affected.
  • Avoiding alcohol and other drugs. Substance use will slow your recovery and may put you at risk for further injury.

Copyright 2018, North Shore University Health System

Recovering from a concussion:

  • Rest - allows the brain to heal.  Not sleeping after a concussion or needing to wake an individual periodically is a myth unless directed by a physician to do so.   Slowly and gradually return to normal activity and if symptoms return or get worse you  are doing too much too soon.
  • Avoid physically demanding activities - you are at risk to having another concussion.
  • Avoid driving, riding a bike or operating equipment - you may not realize it but  after a  concussion your balance and reaction time can be affected.
  • Alcohol and other drugs  - may slow your recovery and may put you at risk for further injury.

If symptoms do not resolve, you may need to see additional medical help; BIAV can connect you to a brain injury specialist for additional treatment.

The Ontario Guidelines for post-concussion care (2015) recommends careful and thorough differential diagnoses for persisting symptoms.

What is an important thing parents, teachers, and coaches should know about concussion?

If an athlete is suspected of having sustained a concussion during play, the very first rule is to remove the the athlete from ALL play. The next step is to get an evaluation from a healthcare professional trained in concussion management.  More information about concussion in school sports can be found on the CDC Website

When should someone return to school or work?

The best available evidence tells us gradually returning to activity as long as it does not make symptoms worse, is the best approach and very important to recovery. Accommodations may help a successful return to school or work; start with half-days or part time attendance and allow rest breaks. Other strategies may be helpful, so call BIAV for an idea of different accommodations that can be tried.

What is Post-Concussive Syndrome?

Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder in which various symptoms — such as headaches and dizziness — last for weeks and sometimes months after the injury that caused the concussion. This term is often used as a “catch all” when symptoms persist, and has been described as not helpful to patients.

What is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)?

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease, first associated with professional athletes, such as boxers and football players who experienced repeated blows to the head. An individual with CTE may be misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, or Dementia. The symptoms have life-changing effects for both the individual and their family. Some of the most common symptoms include loss of memory, difficulty controlling impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, behavioral disturbances (including aggression and depression), difficulty with balance, and a gradual onset of dementia. Right now, CTE can only be confirmed by examining the brain after death

Watch our webinar: Sports Concussions, What you Need to Know.

Important Resources to know:

 Accommodations for Returning to Work   

Accommodations for Returning to School  

 Brain Injury and the Schools: A Guide for Educators

 CDC Heads Up

Return to Academics

Post concussion check list

Resources:

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Printable version of the Concussion Quick Guide 

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