What Is A Concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a knock to the head, often seen in some contact sports, motor vehicle accidents and fights; but concussions may also be caused by something as simple as a fall, or hitting your head in the playground.
The brain is a mass of soft tissue which sits inside a hard, protective casing (the skull). To further protect the brain it is surrounded by spinal fluid which acts as a cushion, helping to prevent the brain making contact with the skull.
The brain is able to move freely within the skull and at times, under certain conditions, (hitting your head etc) may even contact it. When the brain contacts the skull with enough force to injure nerves and tear blood vessels you may experience a concussion.
Signs and Symptoms Of A Concussion
If a person sustains a knock to the head it is important to have them stop what they are doing and seek professional medical advice immediately. You do not have to be knocked unconscious to get a concussion and even minor blows to the head should be treated seriously.
Anyone showing the following signs and symptoms after a knock to the head should be taken to the emergency room immediately or call an ambulance.
- There was a loss of consciousness
- Unresponsive (will not wake up)
- Severe headaches
- Walking difficulties
- Vision problems such as blurred vision
- Trouble concentrating
- Slurred speech
- Not making sense when talking
- Concussion symptoms can take 24 to 72 hours to develop after a head injury
- Although young children usually have the same signs and symptoms as adults their emotional and cognitive symptoms (frustration and irritability) can show up later, be more difficult to notice and last for a longer period of time
- Teenagers tend to have more sleep related issues when concussed
Although most people recover from concussion quite quickly symptoms such as headaches, memory loss and lack of concentration can last for several weeks to months.
If the symptoms linger for more than a week or two it is important to contact your doctor, as further evaluation and treatment may be necessary.
- Anyone with a head injury no matter how minor must be observed for signs of concussion
- An undiagnosed concussion may lead to further brain damage and disability
Treatment For Minor Concussion Symptoms
Every concussion is unique and symptoms can differ in type and severity, so treatment depends on the patient’s personal situation and condition.
For a minor concussion the doctor may give specific instructions on home care such as:
- Watching the patient closely for the first 24 to 72 hours (do not wake them to check for symptoms)
- If the patient has a headache that worsens, becomes confused, starts vomiting, or shows any of the other signs of concussion call your doctor as there may be a more serious problem
If none of these symptoms are present home care might include:
Resting physically – Only the day to day living basic activities should be performed to reduce stress on the brain and decrease the chances of further concussions. All sports and other physical activities should be ceased until the patient is completely healed.
When the concussion symptoms are completely gone it is important to return to physical activity slowly.
Resting Mentally – Mental activity can make concussion symptoms worse, so avoid:
- Using cell phones
- Using computers
- Doing book work or school work
- Watching TV
- Playing video games
These activities should be restarted gradually and if the symptoms return all activities should be stopped immediately.
- A healthy eating plan and drinking plenty of non caffeinated drinks will help
- Bright lights and loud noises can make the symptoms worse
Whilst concussion symptoms are present teens and adults should take time off work and stop any activities that require quick reactions and decision making, such as driving.
The Return To Normal Activities
Some children may feel better but their behavior, thinking and balance have not returned to normal, for this reason it is essential that they get cleared by a doctor before returning to normal physical activities.
If a child is not completely healed and gets another head injury they are at high risk for contracting second-impact syndrome which can cause brain damage and death.
- When playing contact sports all kids should wear the appropriate safety equipment with good head gear to protect against severe head trauma
- Child proofing the home will help prevent toddlers and infants from getting concussions and other injuries from things like falls, or hitting their head on furniture
- To help prevent concussions in the car always use child car seats, booster seats and seat belts
- The chances of sustaining a concussion is much higher if there has been a previous concussion, so prevention is vitally important following a head injury
- Repeated concussions, even years apart, can cause lasting brain damage