We all know someone (or maybe experienced yourself) who has had a concussion. Concussions range in severity, and unfortunately are common in sports, particularly contact sports like soccer, football, hockey and wrestling.
What causes concussions?
Trauma to the head, often caused by motor vehicle accident, falls, and sports injuries, causes concussions. Your brain is made of soft tissue, cushioned by spinal fluid and protected by your skull. A blow or bump to the head can jolt your brain, causing it to literally move around in your head. This can cause bruising, blood vessel damage, and nerve injury, which leads to the concussion symptoms we see below.
How do I know if it’s a concussion?
Symptoms of a concussion include headaches (this is the most common), nausea, balance problems, sensitivity to light and/or noise, drowsiness, amnesia, trouble comprehending and concentrating, and feelings of being in a fog. When someone experiences a concussion, they may have just one or many of these symptoms, depending on the severity and how they respond.
What should I do if my child or someone I know appears to have a concussion? When do I call the doctor?
If your child experienced a blow to the head, it may take anywhere from 2 minutes to a few hours for concussion symptoms to appear. If symptoms of a concussion are apparent, you should consider taking your child to the doctor. If they did not lose consciousness during their concussion, they should wait until symptoms subside to return to normal activity (could be minutes, hours, or days depending on their concussion). They should get lots of rest and take precautions to avoid another concussion, and may be advised to avoid strenuous physical or mental tasks, and take time off from from sports, school, or work. Symptoms normally go away within 6-10 days.
If he or she loses consciousness or experiences a neck injury, you should take him or her to the doctor or the emergency room for observation and treatment.
Concussions can be dangerous, especially because once you sustain one, you are at a three to five times greater risk for experiencing another one. To decrease the likelihood of concussions for yourself or you child, always wear seat belts in the car, wear a helmet when biking, riding a motorcycle, skiing, etc. Have handrails on your staircase and safety gates on your stairs if you have young children. If you child does experience a concussion as the result of a contact sport, make sure they rest from that sport for the amount of time their doctor recommends, because repeat concussions (while their brain tissue and nerves are still healing) are much more dangerous to the brain than the first concussion.
Sources: Clevelandclinic.org: Concussions, January 2015; WebMD: Concussion (Traumatic Brain Injury), 2018; Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion, February 2019
By: Lisa Bartz, C-EP
Steve Bartz, PT