A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head. This type of brain injury can be common in athletes who play sports, or people who participate in recreational activities. It is also possible to get a concussion from a blow to the body if it causes sudden head movement.
You cannot see a concussion, and many of them are not treated or reported to a doctor. Signs and symptoms may show right away, or may not be noticed until days or weeks after the injury. A concussion can cause a variety of symptoms. Many times it doesn't involve a loss of consciousness.Concussion in sports can happen during drills, practices and games. Injuries during practice can be just as serious as those that happen during competition.
Funding and support for this material have been provided by the National Football League Foundation.
Talk to your doctor if you or someone you know has any of the following signs of a concussion:·
You should contact your doctor if any of the signs or symptoms are noticeable following a head injury. If the symptoms are severe, getting worse over time, or if you have specific concerns, you should transport the injured person to an emergency room. It is particularly concerning if the person cannot be awakened, is having convulsions or seizures, or cannot recognize people or places.
The doctor will want information from people who were present when the injury occurred. The doctor may test strength, senses, balance, reflexes, and memory. In more serious cases, the doctor may want specific medical tests completed, such as computed tomographic (CT) scans to look for more severe injuries.
The best way to treat a concussion is to get complete rest from active physical and mental activities. Television, computers, and music should be limited, or even stopped if they worsen symptoms. You should get plenty of fluids and have general healthy behaviors, such as eating well and getting enough sleep. If symptoms become worse, or the patient experiences changes in behavior, such as anxiety, grogginess or confusion, they should immediately see a doctor.
If you have a headache, you can usually take acetaminophen. If you've had a concussion, always ask your doctor before you take any medicine.
Increasing attention has been given to brain injuries occurring in sports. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries occur each year in the United States. Most of these are not treated and reported in a hospital or emergency department. Concussions in sports can happen during drills, practices and games. Injuries during practice can be just as serious as those that happen during competition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the sports which lead to the most emergency department visits for traumatic brain injury are bicycling, football, and basketball. Males are twice as likely as females to sustain a brain injury, and males aged 15 to 24 years are those with the highest risk.
If you have any of the signs or symptoms of a concussion after a blow to the head or body, you should not go back to play the day of the injury. A health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussions, needs to let you know when it is safe to return to play. If your concussion involves memory loss or loss of consciousness, you may not be able to return to play for several weeks. After a severe concussion, you may not be able to return to play for as long as a month. If this wasn't your first concussion, your return to play may take even longer.
If an athlete returns to play before complete recovery, the athlete risks brain swelling. This can sometimes be fatal, presenting as a condition called “second impact syndrome.” A second blow to the head, even a minor one, can cause a loss of control of blood flow to the brain. Never return to a sports activity until cleared by a doctor.
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent concussions. However, there are ways to minimize the risks by learning proper techniques for your sport or activity, and maintaining proper equipment.
Many sports-related organizations offer programs to help young athletes learn the right techniques. For example, the National Football League’s youth development arm, USA Football, introduced a program called Heads Up Football® that teaches players to keep their heads up, and lead with their shoulders when tackling.
A coach or trainer can tell you what equipment is needed to play the sport. Protective equipment should fit properly, and must be well maintained. Helmets will help reduce the risk of a brain injury, but will not prevent a concussion. There are no “concussion–proof” helmets.
Most people do get better after a concussion without any permanent damage. However, there are several ways concussions can have lasting impacts. In some cases, memory impairment has been shown to last for months. A condition known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS) may occur, especially if a patient is not properly treated following a concussion. PCS presents with similar physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep symptoms, only it can take months or even years to resolve.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury. Accessed July 20, 2015
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: epidemiology and rehabilitation.. Accessed July 20, 2015
National Institutes of Health. Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Condition Information. . Accessed July 21, 2015
Current Concepts In Concussion: Evaluation And Management by Scorza KA, Raleigh MF, O’Connor FG (Am Fam Physician )
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff