Detecting and Managing Concussions
Concussions are the most common types of traumatic brain injuries. They can occur either by a blow to the head or because of impact on the body that jiggles the brain within the skull. There are many causes of concussion such as sports injuries, car crashes, and falls. People who sustain concussions need to seek immediate medical attention to ensure they receive proper treatment and have a complete recovery.
Concussions are not usually life-threatening but can have serious long-term negative effects on patients if they are not treated. Proper diagnosis by a medical professional and management is necessary to help the concussed person to recover from the injury.
Diagnosis and treatment
Medical professionals will advise people with concussions to rest mentally and physically, and may also recommend medication, cognitive therapy, vocational, occupational or physical therapy, or other treatments.
Doctors may order a brain scan such as a CT scan and will conduct tests to determine the concussed person's learning and memory function,and their ability to concentrate. Doctors will also test concussed people to determine how quickly they can think and problem solve.
These tests be may inconclusive, however. Medical professionals can also diagnose a concussion by one or more of the symptoms listed below.
Symptoms of a concussion
Most concussed people recover quickly and fully, but some may experience symptoms for days, weeks or longer. Some symptoms don’t show up right away, but appear later on. People with concussions, their families, or doctors may not recognize these effects. When some symptoms get worse, such as nausea or vomiting, physical weakness, or slurred speech, concussed people should seek immediate medical attention
headaches, blurred vision
difficulty in thinking clearly
lack of energy
nausea or vomiting (In the beginning)
struggling to concentrate
sleeping longer than usual
problems with balance, dizziness
feeling like they have slowed down, slurred speech
sleeping less than usual
sensitivity to light or noise
memory problems, difficulty remembering instructions or new information
anxiety and nervousness
difficulty falling asleep
Signs of concussion that require careful monitoring and a visit to an emergency department are:
- extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness, an inability to wake up
- Seizures or convulsions
- Eyes have one pupil bigger than the other
- Not recognizing people or places
- Increasing agitation, restlessness or confusion
- Behaving in an unusual way, such as saying they don’t feel like themselves
In children, the above signs apply as well as:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Erratic changes in mood
- Prolonged periods of inactivity
- Crying continually and refusing to be consoled
- Refusing to eat
Interesting facts about concussions
- Concussions are not only caused by a blow to the head - they can also be caused by impact on the body that jars the brain in the skull
- Only one of several symptoms of concussion is required to make a diagnosis
- Concussions often cannot be diagnosed using current scanning technology such as MRIs or CT scans
- Helmets don't protect people from concussions, but they can protect against more serious traumatic brain injuries
- Women are more susceptible to concussions than men, probably because men have stronger, thicker necks
- Adolescents aged 13 - 16 have the longest recovery time when compared to children or adults
- Many concussions do not cause unconsciousness but some people do experience some memory loss
- Asking a person with a concussion to state the number of fingers being shown is not an effective way to determine their mental state – experts suggest that asking the person what they remember is a better measurement of their condition
- The main treatment for mild concussions are both physical and mental rest
A rare condition called Second-Impact syndrome can occur when concussed people have a second traumatic brain injury before their first injuries are healed. This syndrome can lead to swelling in the brain - a very serious condition that should be treated immediately by medical professionals. Second-impact syndrome can cause severe neurological effects or death.
Steps to a speedy recovery
There are steps that concussed people can take to ensure a full recovery. Not following these suggestions can slow down recovery and make the symptoms worse. People who have repeated concussions may have servious complications such as chronic cognitive problems, poor concentration and memory, headaches, and in some cases, physical difficulties such as balance problems.
Tips for people who have concussions
- Tell your doctor about any medications like aspirin or natural remedies that you are taking – they may interfere with your recovery
- Take care of yourself - get lots of rest and sleep at night
- Avoid tasks that are physically or mentally demanding such as housecleaning or planning a budget
- Do not participate in an physical activities that may jolt or bump the brain such as recreational sports or amusement park rides
- If a medical professional OKs more activities, return to normal activities gradually rather than all at once
- When you return to work, talk to your employer about working part time, accommodations needed in the workplace and gradual return to normal duties
- Only take medication prescribed by your doctor
- Do not drink alcohol until cleared by your doctor
- Ask family members and friends to help you with decisions until your mind is more clear
Ask your doctor when you can safely operate heavy equipment, drive a car, or ride a bike
- Share your progress with your family, loved ones, friends and doctor
- Tell your doctor if you feel you are not getting better
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only. People with symptoms of concussion should seek immediate medical attention.
© 2013 Carola Finch