If you suspect that you’ve had a concussion, the most important first step is to stop whatever activity you’re doing, especially if it’s a sport or physical activity. Continuing to participate can put you at risk for a more serious brain injury. Next, you should seek immediate medical attention. A healthcare professional can assess your symptoms and provide guidance on necessary rest and recovery strategies. Remember, not all symptoms appear immediately and can develop over the next hours or days, so continued monitoring is essential.
There is not a definitive test that can diagnose a concussion like a blood test or imaging scan. A concussion is usually diagnosed based on physical symptoms, cognitive impairment, and neurological examination. A healthcare professional might assess the person’s balance, coordination, reflexes, and memory. In cases with severe symptoms or those that don’t improve over time, a CT scan or MRI may be ordered, primarily to rule out more serious brain injuries, such as bleeding or swelling in the brain. However, most concussions won’t show up on these types of scans.
Yes, pre-existing medical conditions can impact concussion management. Individuals with certain conditions may experience more severe or prolonged symptoms and may require specialized care or adjustments in the management plan.
Athletes are monitored for concussions during sports games in several ways. Team medical staff and coaches keep a close eye on players, watching for any signs of possible concussion, such as appearing dazed or confused, stumbling, or displaying uncoordinated movements. Many sports leagues and schools also have concussion protocols in place that require players suspected of having a concussion to be immediately removed from play and assessed. Some sports use sideline assessment tools like the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT), which includes a series of tests to evaluate an athlete’s physical and cognitive function.
It’s a common myth that you shouldn’t sleep after sustaining a concussion, but rest is actually vital for recovery. Rest helps the brain heal, so sleep is beneficial. That said, if someone’s symptoms are severe or worsening, it may be recommended to wake them periodically to check for deteriorating condition, including worsening headaches, increased confusion, difficulty walking, or seizures. It’s always best to follow the advice of a healthcare provider.
While concussions can happen at any age, older adults may be at higher risk due to factors such as decreased balance and age-related changes in brain structure. Falls prevention strategies, maintaining a safe environment, and regular exercise to improve strength and balance can help reduce the risk of concussions in older adults.
Yes, sustaining multiple concussions over time, even if individually they might seem minor, can indeed have a cumulative effect on the brain. This is sometimes known as “second impact syndrome,” particularly when a second concussion occurs before the brain has fully healed from the first. Over time, repeated concussions can lead to prolonged recovery times and increase the risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head traumas. It underscores the importance of full recovery before returning to activities that risk additional head injury.
A concussion can cause a temporary loss of consciousness, typically lasting only a few seconds or minutes. However, it should not lead to permanent unconsciousness. Permanent loss of consciousness could be a sign of a more severe brain injury, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or brain hemorrhage, which requires immediate and emergency medical attention. The duration of unconsciousness and memory loss can indicate the severity of the concussion. Even when consciousness is regained, it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation as other serious symptoms might develop over time.
Common concussion symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, sensitivity to light or noise, and changes in mood or behavior. In some cases, concussion symptoms may not appear for hours or even days after the injury occurred. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have a concussion, it is important to seek medical attention.