Concussion can result from a variety of events, including sports injuries, car accidents or other direct blows to the head such as from falls. A severe hit to the body can also cause the brain to jolt around in the skull and cause a concussion.
While concussion is not typically life-threatening, it is a type of traumatic brain injury that can cause long-term damage if not properly cared for. If concussion is suspected, it is important to be evaluated quickly, especially for student athletes.
“Football is the sport with the highest number of concussions,” said Thomas “Tom” Dagg, MD, sports medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System in Great Bend. “But the rate of concussion is highest in men’s wrestling, followed by men’s and women’s ice hockey.”
If an athlete returns to play before symptoms have fully resolved, they are four times more likely to have a second concussion. This can lead to a rare condition called second impact syndrome that can result in brain swelling and even death.
Even with full healing, recurrent head injury or concussion can lead to chronic issues such as headache and memory difficulties. While a first concussion can’t always be prevented, a second injury during the recovery process should not be allowed to happen.
Recognize the symptoms
It is important to recognize symptoms of concussion so it can be identified in a timely manner and treated appropriately. A person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. In fact, most concussions don’t result in a loss of consciousness.
“People typically think of symptoms of concussion such as a headache that is worse with bright light or loud noise, symptoms that worsen when looking at screens,” Dr. Dagg said. “Other symptoms can include loss of memory, difficulty learning new information, nausea, balance problems or brain fog. People may also experience disturbance to their moods or sleep.”
As research on concussion continues, we will likely continue to see changes in the way concussion is treated. For example, we now know that sleep and rest, mental rest as well as physical rest, is essential for concussion healing. Dr. Dagg notes that it is also important to limit screen time after a concussion.
Just as there is variation in concussion symptoms, there is also variation in the speed at which concussions resolve – some resolve quickly, while others can take weeks.
Ensuring your health care provider can provide proper treatment and observation after concussion is essential.
If you suspect a concussion, seek medical treatment within 24 hours of the injury. Seeing a family medicine provider or sports medicine physician or going to the Convenient Care Walk-In Clinic or the Emergency Department is the best first step.
If you have been diagnosed with a concussion, rehabilitation with a physical therapist who has certifications in concussion management and rehab is important. The University of Kansas Health System orthopedics care team includes two concussion management-certified physical therapists who provide rehabilitation services.
When treatment is complete and you are ready, your care provider will work with the physical therapy team to provide the release you need to get back to work or your regular activities..