A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. When this sudden movement occurs, the brain can bounce or even twist around in the skull, which can sometimes result in chemical changes to the brain and damage brain cells.  

People suffer concussions for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are if an individual falls, is involved in a car crash or plays contact sports. Statistics show that an estimated 300,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries, the majority of which are concussions, occur every year in the United States. Participation in high school and collegiate sports has increased in recent years, and studies have shown that concussions are also on the rise. 

Though concussions are usually not “life-threatening,” their effects can be severe. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of a concussion’s warning signs and obtain the proper treatment if you or someone you know is suspected of having one. Keep reading to learn more. 

Types of Concussions 

Physicians grade (or rank) concussions based on their severity. The three grade levels are: 

  • Grade 1: Mild, with symptoms that last less than 15 minutes and involve no loss of consciousness
  • Grade 2: Moderate, with symptoms that last longer than 15 minutes and involve no loss of consciousness
  • Grade 3: Severe, in which the person loses consciousness, sometimes for just a few seconds

Symptoms of a Concussion

Symptoms of a concussion can vary depending on the severity of the injury and the person injured. For example, children are more prone to concussions than adults because their heads are disproportionately larger than their bodies. Concussions can be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms can be subtle, and in some cases, take days or even weeks to show up. The symptoms of a concussion can last for seconds, days, weeks or sometimes, longer. 

There are common physical, mental and emotional symptoms a person may experience following a concussion. Warning signs and symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Confusion or feeling dazed
  • Clumsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sluggishness
  • Ringing in ears
  • Irritability or other behavior or personality changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of memory
  • Fatigue or sleepiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Forgetfulness such as repeating yourself   
  • Slowed response to questions
  • Problems with sleep
  • Depression
  • Issues with taste or smell

If a concussion is sustained from a sports-related injury, the athlete should not be allowed to return to play on the same day as the injury. He or she should be seen as soon as possible by a healthcare professional. 

If there is an accompanying injury to the spine, it is recommended to avoid moving the injured person and call an ambulance for assistance. If the injured person must be moved, keep their neck and back as stationary as possible to avoid further damage to their spine. 

Concussion Treatment 

If you or someone you know has a suspected concussion, it is essential to see a healthcare professional. The treatment for a concussion depends on the severity of the symptoms experienced. Surgery or other medical procedures may be required if there is brain bleeding, brain swelling or a severe brain injury, but the majority of concussions do not require surgery or serious medical treatment. 

At-home recovery generally includes plenty of rest, the avoidance of sports or other strenuous activities and the avoidance of driving a vehicle or bicycle riding for 24 hours to a few months after the incident (depending on the concussion’s severity). A physician may also suggest over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to assist with headaches. 

Though it is tempting to start playing sports or immediately return to an active lifestyle after being diagnosed with a concussion, you should not do this without a physician’s permission. Getting a second concussion before the first one is healed can cause second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome is a condition that can increase the chances of severe brain swelling and, in some cases, be fatal.

Concussion Prevention

While concussions can sometimes be challenging to prevent, there are ways to reduce the risks of getting one. Check out these precautions you can take to lessen the risk of concussions: 

  • Wear the proper protective equipment during sports and other recreational activities
  • Drive and ride smart 
  • Reduce trip and fall hazards in your home
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use home safety measures to protect your children

Experienced a Concussion? Make an Appointment at The Orthopedic Group 

If you have experienced a concussion, our team at The Orthopedic Group is here to help. Our sports medicine physicians have extensive knowledge in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions. If you would like to request information about our services or make an appointment, use the link provided here, or give us a call at (724) 379-5802, and we can schedule you to be seen at the office nearest you!

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