Concussions

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury. It may be caused by a sudden blow to the head or by a sudden movement that causes the brain to shake within the skull, which can cause bruising, injure nerves and damage blood vessels.

Actions that increase the risk for a concussion include:  

  • Falls, particularly in children and older adults
  • Playing a contact sport
  • Lack of proper safety gear for contact sports 
  • Accidents that cause a blow to the head or a rapid movement of the head
  • Being hit, struck with an object, or other physical abuse


What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Concussions are usually not life-threatening, but they can cause serious symptoms that need medical treatment. These symptoms usually appear soon after the injury. Some symptoms may not show up for hours or days.

Signs of a concussion may include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Clumsiness
  • Sleepiness
  •  Nausea and vomiting
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood, behavior or personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light or noise


How are concussions prevented?

Concussions are difficult to prevent since they are unexpected. You can take precautions to reduce the risk of brain injury while being active outdoors and at home.

Outdoors:

  • Protective headgear - Participation in contact sports and activities such as football, baseball, skateboarding, horseback riding and bicycling increases the likelihood of a concussion. Wear a helmet that is properly sized for your head, and use mouth and eye guards when recommended. 
  • Padding - A hit to the body, not just the head, can cause a concussion. A body blow can cause the head and brain to shake violently. Proper body padding can lower that risk.
  • Safety belts – Wear your seatbelt when in an automobile and make sure children are properly buckled in safety seats.

At home:

  •  Reduce trip and fall hazards - Clear clutter from floors and hallways. Unsecured area rugs can slip under your feet. Make sure your home has plenty of light so you do not trip over unseen objects. Make sure stairs have sturdy handrails.
  • Install childproof devices - Window guards can prevent a terrible fall and corner bumpers can protect heads from more severe damage. Block stairways from very young children.
  • Exercise regularly - Along with the usual health benefits, exercise can give you stronger muscles and improve your balance, which can help prevent falls.


How are concussions treated? 

  • Contact a physician if you believe that you or someone else has suffered a concussion.  A physician will perform a physical examination to determine the extent of the injury. Most concussions do not require major medical treatment or hospitalization; however,  serious symptoms may require an MRI or CT scan to check for other injuries.
  •  A physician will provide instructions for care at home. The brain needs time to properly heal so rest is key to recovery from a concussion.  Home care instructions  include:
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache
  • Avoid aspirin or NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Advil, Naprosyn, Aleve) 
  • Limit physical and mental activity for several days
  • Avoid strenuous activities to protect against repeated concussions
  • Do not drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery for a designated length of time


Medical experts also recommend close follow-up with your doctor if symptoms worsen or fail to improve.

You can come into any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 8 pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed.