A concussion is a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts normal brain function. Concussions, also known as Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, most often result from falls, sports injuries, and auto accidents.
Concussion symptoms may begin immediately after an injury, but sometimes take hours or days to appear. The most common symptoms of a concussion include; headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, confusion, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and difficulty remembering or learning new things. Patients sometimes struggle to understand conversations or make simple calculations like determining a restaurant tip. Patients often feel as if they are “in a fog”. Symptoms can range from subtle to debilitating.
Patients and their attendants should be particularly alert for signs or symptoms that could indicate a more threatening injury like; worsening headache, growing irritability, repeated vomiting, difficulty speaking or swallowing, shortness of breath, unequal pupils, fever, visual disturbances, seizures, clear discharge from the nose or ears, loss of consciousness, or increasing light-headedness, numbness, or confusion. These symptoms warrant immediate emergency medical attention.
Recovery times are quite variable and are dependent upon a number of factors. It is critical that you allow your brain to recover completely before returning to physical activity. A concussion can be likened to dropping a computer – you will need to allow time to reboot before trying to use it. Suffering a second concussion before the first has completely resolved can lead to significantly worse symptoms and long-term impairments.
Athletes who have suffered a concussion must not return to activity before being evaluated by a healthcare professional that is very familiar with concussion management.