Concussion Recovery

Brain diagram (including skull)What is a concussion?

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, a concussion is defined as an “injury to the brain that results in a temporary loss of normal brain function.” It is caused by a blow to the head or by violent shaking of the head. University of Pittsburgh’s Neurological Surgery website says that sports-related concussion incidences in the United States are estimated at 300,000 annually.

How do I know if I have a concussion?

Most times, it will not be externally apparent that someone has a concussion. Additionally, it is common for people with concussions not to lose consciousness. Concussions affect everything from memory and judgment to reflexes and balance. If you notice a change in those functions, it is possible that the person in question has a concussion.

Here are a few of the common signs of a concussion:

  • Appearance of being dazed or stunned
  • Unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Shows behavioral or personality change
  • Forgets events prior to hit (retrograde amnesia) and/or events after hit (anterograde amnesia)
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing ears
  • Impaired balance
  • Loss of smell or taste

If you suspect you or someone else has a concussion, go to a doctor right away. There is no such thing as a “mild concussion.” It doesn’t take a very strong blow for the effects of a concussion to be permanently damaging or deadly. However, in most cases, a single concussion does not cause permanent damages.

What do I do after I have a concussion?

There is a tendency, especially in athletes, to want to be strong and just wait for a physical or mental problem to heal itself. However, being vulnerable and admitting you need help is strong. If you choose to “wait it out”, your symptoms could get significantly worse and by the time you get medical help, there could be permanent damage.

The following list is not a substitute for a doctor, they are simply good ideas to help you get better. Here are a some tips from the CDC:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep enough at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid physically demanding activities and any activities that could potentially lead to another concussion, such as contact or recreational sports.
  • Make sure your doctor knows what’s going on with you, and that you check in with them as you work towards recovery. For example, ask when you can safely drive before you get behind the wheel.
  • If possible, alter your work schedule so you can gradually return to work.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Try to do one thing at a time. Your brain is not functioning at full capacity and multitasking may become overwhelming.

What can I do to prevent a concussion?

There is no way to 100% prevent concussions because accidents happen. Here are a few ways to take precautions to lessen your chances of getting a concussion:

  • Wear a seat-belt when you drive or when you ride in a vehicle.
  • Drive safely. Drive unimpaired.
  • Remove any falling hazards in your home.
  • If you are an athlete:
    • Wear a helmet or protective headgear.
    • Wear appropriate sports clothing.
    • Make sure no clothing interferes with your vision.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/feel_better.html

http://www.aans.org/patient%20information/conditions%20and%20treatments/concussion.aspx

http://www.neurosurgery.pitt.edu/centers-excellence/brain-and-spine-injury/concussions

Photo Courtesy of J E Theoriot and Creative Commons.