What is a concussion; what are some common symptoms following a concussion?
A concussion is the result of a blow to head or neck, which causes to the brain to be rocked back and forth inside of the skull. This leads to an altered state of consciousness of mental awareness, which can either be temporary or prolonged. Although symptoms of a concussion are not always definite, they can include changes to physical, cognitive/mental, or emotional functioning. For example, problems with headache, neckache, backache, dizziness, nausea, memory difficulties, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms are often reported following a concussion.
Do concussions always involve a loss of consciousness?
No. A concussion typically involves at least a change or alteration of consciousness of some sort, but an actual loss of consciousness is not required for the diagnosis of concussion. Often times, an athlete may be unsure of whether a loss of consciousness has occurred during a contact incident.
How long does it take to recover from the effects of a concussion?
Many factors influence the course of recovery from a concussion, including the severity of the concussion, previous history of concussion, physical injury/pain symptoms, and personal history, and so the length of recovery will differ among individuals. Most healthy athletes, however, will see significant improvement within 7 to 30 days following their concussion.
I had a concussion, and I fear that I may have injured my brain permanently. Is this possible?
Complete recovery can be expected for most athletes who have sustained a concussion, especially if they have had very few concussions previously. However, it is very important that the athlete who has sustained a concussion does not return to play too soon, as the brain is particularly vulnerable to permanent injury while it is recovering from the effects of a concussion. Therefore, if a second concussion occurs during this period, the risk of permanent brain injury is increased.
Isn’t it true that the better athletes just “play through” their concussions?
No. A concussion, because it is by definition a mild brain injury, should be taken seriously. Therefore, symptoms following a concussion should not be viewed as a result of physical or emotional weakness that could be overcome by merely “toughing it out.” Ignoring the need to limit activity and play while recovering from a concussion can result in unnecessary risk of further and more debilitating injury.
When is it necessary to see a doctor following a concussion?
Many athletes sustain very mild concussions with very little disruption to their lives. It is also true, however, that individuals often do not recognize the symptoms of a concussion during the very early stages following an injury. As with most medical problems, early detection and treatment of concussion is the best with regard to recovery and prevention of future problems. Therefore, if you have sustained a loss of consciousness, or any significant duration of change or alteration in consciousness (e.g., more than 10-15 minutes), it might be a good idea to see a doctor familiar with diagnosing and treating postconcussive problems. In any case, lingering problems following a concussion should be considered a signal that you should consult a professional.
I am recovering from the effects of a concussion. What can I do to help with my recovery?
In many cases of uncomplicated concussion, rest, restriction from play, and the passage of time go a long way towards full recovery. In some cases, however, various associated problems following a concussion may serve to prolong the effects of a concussion if they are not detected and treated properly. These include (but are not limited to) visual function problems, balance deficits, difficulties with chronic pain, sleep disruption, emotional problems, and personal habits that become a problem only after a concussion (for example, a disorganized lifestyle).