The symptoms of a concussion are complex and multifold.
You do not have to lose consciousness or experience amnesia to be diagnosed with a concussion. Though it is often caused by direct blow to the head, it can also be caused by any force or impact that leads to movement of the brain within the skull. Many people tend to associate concussions with contact sports. For this reason, most of us do not consider that we may have a concussion after an everyday fall or accident.
Often underreported, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million suffer a concussion each year. Symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:
sensitivity to light and noise
These symptoms should not be ignored. However, there is no gold standard for diagnosis. The traditional approach of treatment via physical exam and pharmaceutical intervention does not offer effective and thorough care. Instead patients need to be led through recovery by a team of medical and rehabilitation specialists who can address their individual needs. Since concussions evolve over time, the ultimate prognosis can be a function of the care taken during the acute and sub-acute period. Concussions are unique injuries which yield a front line dilemma with potential for tremendous benefit in improving diagnosis and treatment through research.
Concussions: Frequently Asked Questions
When should I see a doctor?
You should see a doctor within 1 to 2 days of a head injury or as soon as possible after a head injury, even if emergency care is not required. Athletes who experience a head injury should not return to play until they have been medically evaluated by a health care professional trained in evaluating and managing concussions.
If I think I have a concussion, should I go to the emergency room?
The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after injury.
Most often patients do NOT require a trip to the emergency room. An emergency referral is indicated in the following cases:
High risk mechanism fall, such as falling from a height directly on to your head or neck
Cervical spine injury
Loss of consciousness, or level of consciousness deteriorates over time
Inability to recognize people or places
Experiencing numbness or tingling in arms or legs
Symptoms that worsen dramatically in a short period of time
When can I return to play?
Anyone suspected of experiencing a concussion should be immediately removed from play. One does not have to experience loss of consciousness and/or amnesia in order to have a concussion. Return to sports and physical activity should not occur until you are assessed by a licensed healthcare professional trained in concussion. Return to sports and physical activity also requires a progressive exercise program, a complete absence of symptoms, and continuing evaluation for any recurring signs or symptoms. Athletes of high school age and younger take longer to recover than college athletes and thus must be managed more conservatively. Personalized treatment and comprehensive supervision is essential for recovery.
When can I return to school?
A health care professional can decide when a student is ready to return to school. Once a student has returned to the classroom, it is important to continue to monitor him/her. Monitoring for signs of physical or cognitive symptoms can be done by school professionals. Cognitive rest is critical for students recovering from a concussion and may involve limiting activities such as working on a computer, driving, reading, studying for or taking an exam, etc. Progressive and individualized return to activity is vital in the recovery process and involves careful monitoring of symptoms.
How long do concussion symptoms typically last?
The symptoms of a concussion will usually go away within 5 days to 3 weeks of the initial injury. However, in some cases, symptoms may last for several more weeks or even months. The potential for such long term symptoms and for complications from re-injury indicates the need for careful management of all concussions.
What is the definition of “cognitive rest”?
A concussion affects how the brain works, so resting the brain for a brief period in a guided manner can be helpful for recovery. Cognitive rest means avoiding activities that require the brain to process information. Your doctor will advise on rest and return to activity.
If you experience signs and symptoms after a recent head trama please contact us to see if we can help.
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