Concussions Let’s face it! Accidents happen! While most of us think of concussions occurring in contact sports, the truth is that they can occur in any sport and across all age groups of athletes! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 200,000 people each year suffer a concussion while playing sports. So what is a concussion? What are the signs and symptoms? How are they treated? What is the best prevention? And when can you return to your sport?
What is a concussion? A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) which can occur as a result of a direct blow or with violent head rotation which “shakes” the brain inside of the skull. It is unclear whether it causes damage to brain tissue because most imaging studies such as MRI and CT scans fail to show any damage. Some describe it as a “loss of consciousness”; however, many victims 10
are never “knocked out”. A concussion will, however, temporarily impair how the brain functions and processes information. For example, it may affect balance and coordination, memory, or speech. Fortunately, it is usually shortlived lasting only 7-10 days in most cases. But we do know that a person who has sustained one concussion is more at risk for subsequent concussions and the long term effects of multiple concussions are well documented and potentially very serious.
What are the signs and symptoms? Recognition is of utmost importance to prevent long term consequences. Symptoms of concussion can be varied. They are often subtle and not obvious. And the victim may not even realize that something is wrong! Here are some of the common symptoms of concussion:
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Drowsiness Headache Confusion Memory Loss Loss of Consciousness Irritability Balance problems, dizziness Difficulty with speech Depression Nausea and vomiting Changes in sleep patterns
Once a concussion is suspected, physician evaluation is warranted. After getting details about the injury, the victim will undergo a mental status, neurological, visual, hearing, and physical exam. Imaging tests may follow and sometimes neuropsychological testing will be indicated. Once a baseline is established and emergencies are addressed these findings will be important for follow up comparison.
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