People who follow sports may have noticed increasing reports of concussions. A type of traumatic brain injury, concussion may be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way a brain normally works.
But on the field isn’t the only place where the incidence of concussion may be rising. Better science and diagnostic tools have helped determine that a simple “knock to the head” may actually be a concussion.
Concussions can also occur from falls, car accidents, or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to bounce quickly back and forth. And though a concussion may be considered a mild brain injury, its long and short-term effects can be serious.
Most people with a concussion recover quickly and completely, though some may experience symptoms for days, weeks, or longer. Recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens. People who have had a concussion in the past are at greater risk of having another, and it may take longer to recover.
Concussion symptoms may not only have a physical effect on people, but they can affect thinking, remembering, emotions, moods, and sleep patterns. Signs may include:
- Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering new information
- Feeling slowed down, tired or without energy
- Fuzzy or blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting (not long after the initial impact)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Balance problems
- Feeling irritable, sad, more emotional, nervous or anxious
- Sleeping more or less than usual, or trouble falling asleep
Some symptoms appear right away, but others may not be noticed for days or months, or until a person starts resuming everyday activities when more demands are placed upon them. People may not recognize or admit their difficulties; others may not understand why they are having problems or what their problems really are. The person who has a concussion, family members, or doctors could miss some problems; he or she may look fine despite acting or feeling differently. If you’ve had a concussion, or are looking after someone who has, contact a health care professional or emergency department right away if any of the following danger signs occur after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body:
- Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
- Repeated vomiting or nausea.
- Slurred speech.
If any of the following symptoms are present, a person who has suffered head or body trauma should be taken immediately to an emergency department:
- Extreme drowsiness, cannot be awakened
- One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) is larger than the other
- Convulsions or seizures
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation
- Unusual behavior
- Loss of consciousness
- Note that any a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person needs to be carefully monitored
People who’ve had a concussion should not assume they may return to regular activities so quickly. To fully recover, a brain needs proper rest, even from things as simple as using a computer, reading or physical activity.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from concussion symptoms, contact a health care professional immediately. To learn more about concussions and other brain injuries, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html.