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Concussion / Mild TBI

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On a June afternoon, while Anne Forrest was watching for her chance to merge onto Rock Creek Parkway in Washington, D.C., a woman in an SUV hit her from behind. Both drivers got out to inspect the damage and exchange information. A police officer took an accident report. Anne felt shaken but looked fine; she got in her Acura and drove on. “Who knew?” she says. “But that changed my entire life.”

What exactly is a concussion?
In a nutshell, a concussion is a blow or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Also called a mild traumatic brain injury, a concussion can result from a car crash, a sports injury, or from a seemingly innocuous fall. Concussion recovery times can vary greatly.

Most people who sustain a concussion or mild TBI are back to normal by three months or sooner. But others, like Anne, have long-term problems remembering things and concentration. Accidents can be so minor that neither doctor nor patient makes the connection.

Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of a mild brain injury, or concussion, can show up right after the injury, or they may not appear until days or even weeks afterward. Concussion symptoms can include:

Sometimes people complain of “just not feeling like themselves.” If you or a loved one notices any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away.

Diagnosis and treatment
Getting diagnosed as early as possible and then seeking treatment or rehab, if necessary, is crucial. And there are many effective short- and long-term treatments available including:

Second impact syndrome
People should also be aware of second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome describes the situation in which an individual sustains a second concussion before the symptoms from the first have resolved. A second brain injury, or cumulative concussions, can be more dangerous than the first one.

“There’s a long period of time where you don’t know who you are, because your brain’s not working and your brain defines a lot of who you are. You have to refind yourself,” Anne says. “If you just look at the dark clouds, you won’t move forward. For years I didn’t feel my life was meaningful. It’s meaningful now.”

Most people make a good recovery from a concussion, but it’s important to take what may seem like just a bump on the head seriously.

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