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What Should You Do If You Think You Have Had a Concussion?

Comments [12]

BrainLine

What Should You Do If You Think You Have Had a Concussion?
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What exactly is a concussion?

Although there is actually no single, accepted definition of concussion, it is commonly described as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the function of the brain.

Also called a mild traumatic brain injury, a concussion can result from a car crash, a sports injury, or from a seemingly innocuous fall. Concussions can also occur when the head and upper body are shaken violently. Recovery times can vary greatly.

So, how do you know if you should seek medical attention or wait and see?

The best answer: when in doubt, get prompt medical attention. Lots of people may have a headache or dizziness for a day or so and then recovery fully, but a very small group of people who sustain a concussion — five percent — can develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life threatening if not promptly diagnosed.

Brain injuries are extremely common, but diagnosis can be complicated. Today, there is no single, objective measure that can determine if someone has had a concussion. To make a diagnosis, professionals look at many variables that might indicate trauma,  ranging from changes in balance to memory lapses and dizziness.

It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention in a hospital or emergency department if any of these symptoms are present:

  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.

And if possible, see a medical professional who has knowledge of and experience with brain injury.

Tests

Depending on your symptoms, your age, and the severity of the injury, the emergency department physicians may order some tests. Here are some of the most common:

  • Neurological test– A basic neurological exam in the ER assesses motor and sensory skills, the functioning of one or more cranial nerves, hearing and speech, vision, coordination and balance, mental status, and changes in mood or behavior, among other abilities. 
  • CT scan– A CT is a special computerized x-ray that provides images of the brain and is sometimes used to look for suspected bleeding or swelling.
  • MRI scan– A Magnetic Resonance Imaging test provides detailed pictures of the brain using magnetic energy instead of radiation.

Even though someone has had a concussion, the MRI and CT scans are often negative. That does not mean that there is no injury; it just means that the damage is not visible on the scans.

Rest

Simple though it sounds, rest is the best treatment we have today for a concussion.

If you think of the brain as an engine, it runs out of gas faster after an injury. Rest is the only way to fill up the tank again. So, the best way to recover is to rest.

Rest is important because the brain continues to heal even after all the symptoms are gone. At least initially, rest means not reading, not listening to music, not watching TV. It means no texting, no email, no cell phone. Rest means physical rest AND cognitive rest.

That said, if symptoms persist — headaches, nausea, dizziness, balance problems, confusion — after you have gotten medical care, call your healthcare provider again. Be persistent and find a healthcare provider who specializes in treating traumatic brain injury.

Prognosis

Most people who sustain a concussion or mild TBI are back to normal often in a week or two and almost always within a few months. But others can have long-term problems either from the concussion or from injury to surrounding soft tissues.

The sooner someone is diagnosed, the better the chances for a good recovery because rest is so important

One word of caution: Because a concussion affects the brain, the injured person may lack the clear judgment to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to go to the hospital. Family and friends can be instrumental in urging him or her to seek medical attention. Remember, when in doubt, check it out!

BrainLine

Comments [12]

I'm fourteen and hit my head really hard on a wall last night. I was and still am dizzy, light headed, nauseous, and confused. I threw up twice last night. should I be concerned?

Apr 15th, 2014 7:25pm

I am 29 years old and I crashed a dirt bike going over a 9th jump and Landed on my head. I knocked myself completely out. I woke up 17 hours later in a hospital. CT scan was normal. Good thing I was wearing a good helmet and my neck brace or my neck would be broken for sure. 2 weeks later I still have symptoms. Doctors say it's normal. Takes a while for the Brain to heal up!

Apr 7th, 2014 5:37pm

A week ago I fell over a toy and hit my eyebrow on the side of a race car bed. I bandaged the 2 inch cut and cleaned the wound and applied ice. I have a slight headache that is relieved by Ibruprophen, fogginess, tiredness, a raccoon black eye and tearing from the side of my injured eye in the mornings. Should I be concerned? I recently lost my job and have no health insurance.

Jan 15th, 2014 10:00am

My experience is that what happened to me was summarized as Organic Brain Syndrome. For me, caffeine works a little to temporarily improve the ability to pay attention and comprehend a little better.

Nov 14th, 2013 8:52am

I got a concusion in About July of 2013 its now October 2013 but i have not been able to remember most things and recintly i have started fainting.When it happened i was dizzy, nasuos, and had a headache. I'm 15 my parents didnt take me to the hospital...

Oct 11th, 2013 12:45pm

I've had 5 concussions. 3 in car accidents, 2 falls, and today I had a range hood (fan extractor) fall on my head. I know it's a concussion. Dizzy, confused, ear ache, blurry vision, and tiredness. I had brain surgery in 2003 for a tumor on the left side of head, and that's where my injury occurred tonight. Conflicted???? idy399@yahoo.com

Oct 8th, 2013 10:43pm

i think i am dying. drank a lot of alcohol after being hit in the head with a branch. fell asleep fine last night and feel very confused (almost drunk) still today

Oct 4th, 2013 10:40am

In rugby practice I got picked up and dropped on the side of my head. My head hurt for a moment then I was okay. But now I feel very weird. I cant remember things that happened earliert today. I remember the date and my name and everything but I can't remember what happened this morning. HELPPPPPP

Oct 2nd, 2013 7:11pm

My head got slammed in a car door tonight by accident. I think that I may have a concussion. When I was younger and had one the dr. told me not to go to sleep for 2 hrs. after it happened. So that is what I am going to do. Wait 2 hrs. before going to sleep. I had a pounding head ache prior to this happening tonight too. :( So this just makes it feel worse.

Aug 29th, 2013 10:09pm

Well the other day my friend coral came over and we went to the creek. We were playin on the sandbar with a float and we decided to do flips and land on the float. Coral went to go flip on the float and the float moved. She did a frontwards flip and landed on the sand. Now her neck has been hurting ever since. :/

Aug 26th, 2013 9:24pm

I hit the back of my head in a wall after 10 minutes I feel dizzy,balance problem and some bad taste in mouth its been 1month and 1week now but till now I feel dizzy and some shortness of breath but I think its because of anxiety and depression..what should I do? Please reply in this Email: bilouieraine@yahoo.com..thanks

Aug 24th, 2013 11:06pm

I know I've had a concussion over five years ago, but the pain, and agony of it hasn't gone away like they said it should and nobody has wanted to do anything more but shove pills down my throat. Am looking for advice or suggestions from someone experienced in brain/spinal issues. Contact me at haskids2009@gmail.com, thank you.

Jul 15th, 2013 12:09pm


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