What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that can temporarily alter the way the brain functions. When jarred or shaken, the soft tissue of the brain can move around inside the skull and knock into the hard bone. Bruising, torn blood vessels, and nerve damage can result.
What causes a concussion?
A concussion is often caused by a blow to the head. A person might suffer a concussion due to a fall, injuries resulting from a car accident, or any number of types of impact injuries, like a hard tackle in football or a high-hit or body-check in hockey.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Concussion symptoms range from unconsciousness to no outward symptoms at all. The most common immediate symptoms include confusion, dizziness, amnesia, ringing in the ears, and headache. Speech may be slurred, and the person may vomit or feel nauseated or fatigued. Over the course of hours or days, other symptoms may emerge: memory or concentration problems, sleep disturbances, changes in mood, and sensitivity to light and to sound. In many cases, the symptoms of concussion resolve after treatment and rest.
Do a child's symptoms of concussion differ from an adult's?
A very young child may not be able to explain their symptoms, so adults should watch for signs of listlessness, unsteadiness, or changes in a child's mood or patterns of eating or sleeping. A child should be closely monitored during the hours and days following a concussion. Ask a health care provider for more information about the signs to watch for and any special instructions to protect your child during recovery.
What should you do if you suspect a concussion?
Seek immediate medical attention for a person who has lost consciousness, is vomiting or having seizures, or is showing signs of obvious mental difficulty. If a person does not lose consciousness, a "better safe than sorry" approach is prudent, since how a head trauma will progress is impossible to predict. Children are especially vulnerable to head injury, so seek medical attention for anything beyond a light bump on the head. A person suspected of having a concussion should never be given aspirin, ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, as this can increase the risk of bleeding.
How is a concussion treated?
The doctor will examine the person to assess their symptoms, checking pupil size and asking questions to determine extent of confusion and memory loss. Further testing may be ordered, such as a CT scan, EEG, or MRI. Depending on the severity of the concussion, a patient may be told to rest (including rest from the computer or video games) and given medication to deal with headaches or pain. Once the symptoms of concussion have resolved, you can slowly ease back into activities as directed by your doctor.
Are there any complications of a concussion?
Symptoms of concussion may linger for months or longer after injuries have healed. In post-concussion syndrome, a person may continue to experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and changes in mood, sleep, and memory. Repeated concussions may lead to permanent neurological damage.
How can a concussion be prevented?
A concussion most often happens by accident, and not all causes can be prevented. To reduce your risk, protect yourself and your family from the most common dangers. Wear a seat belt whenever you ride in a car. Strap children in to age- and size-appropriate safety seats. Wear protective gear whenever engaged in sports or active pursuits that pose injury risks (skating, bicycling, horseback riding, etc.) Wear sensible shoes to prevent slips and falls.
Written and reviewed by the MediResource clinical team.