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||||||||ER doctor examines dazed injured soccer player for concussion

Understanding Concussions

Over the last several years, there has been an increase in concussion awareness. Sports-related concussions are often what people think of first; however, a large majority of the population suffer concussions from falls, motor vehicle collisions, or being struck by an object.

What Is a Concussion?

Concussions are considered the result of a blow, jolt, or bump to the head. The sudden movement of the brain inside the skull leads to metabolic and neurochemical changes in the brain cells causing a variety of symptoms. Due to the changes being metabolic and neurochemical, concussions do not normally show up on imaging such as a CT scan or MRI. Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness, brain swelling, or permanent brain injury and symptoms resolve within a few days or weeks. In some cases, symptoms can be ongoing. The individual’s symptoms may show up right away or may not show up until later.

Common Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Autonomic nervous system dysfunction- poor regulation of heart rate, blood pressure, temperature
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Visual problems
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty multi-tasking
  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness

What is the Best Treatment for Concussions?

In the past, avoiding all activity and resting in a dark room until symptoms were gone was recommended. However, studies are finding people have better outcomes by limiting mental and physical activities for the first two days rather than eliminating the activities completely. Activity is then gradually increased as tolerated without increasing symptoms. If symptoms persist after 2-4 weeks, following up with a physician is recommended. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology are beneficial for treating the ongoing symptoms.

Originally Published: September 2019. Updated: August 2022. 

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