The discussion around concussions and concussion protocols is becoming more widespread in the news, particularly around professional athletes. But what exactly is a concussion and why is this such an important topic?

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when head trauma causes a temporary disruption of normal brain function. The injury happens when a person's brain is violently rocked back and forth or twisted inside the skull as a result of a direct or indirect force. A concussion disturbs brain activity and should be handled as a serious injury. Proper healing and recovery time are crucial in preventing further injury.

Athletes not fully recovered from an initial concussion are much more vulnerable to recurrent, cumulative and even catastrophic consequences of a repeat injury. These difficulties can be prevented if the athlete has time to recover from a concussion and return-to-play decisions are carefully made. Until concussion symptoms disappear and recovery is complete, no athlete should return to sport or other at-risk activity.

The best way to prevent difficulties with a concussion is to manage the injury properly when it occurs. But how do you know if you have a concussion?

Signs and Symptoms – Athletes

It happens. You’re in the heat of a game and BAM! You get a knock to the head. If you feel any of the following symptoms, don’t just shake it off. You may be suffering from the effects of a concussion.

  • Double vision
  • Feeling sluggish, dazed and/or foggy
  • Headache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Problems balancing
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Cognitive changes

Signs and Symptoms – Parents/Caretakers

If your child experienced an injury and shows any of the following signs, have the child evaluated for a concussion.

  • Answers questions slowly
  • Appears dazed, stunned or confused
  • Forgets events that occurred prior to the injury (retrograde amnesia)
  • Forgets events that occurred after the injury (anterograde amnesia)
  • Is unsure of the game, score or opponent
  • Loses consciousness, even temporarily
  • Moves clumsily
  • Shows unusual behaviors or personality change, like unusual crying or laughing

Symptoms may worsen with exertion. An athlete or child should not return to play until symptom free.

If You Suspect A Concussion

If you think you (or your loved one) may have a concussion, seek medical attention. Your doctor may order diagnostic testing, such as an MRI or a CT scan. While these are helpful in identifying more serious injuries (e.g. skull fracture, hematoma, contusion), they can be normal for a concussion—even in athletes who sustained a severe concussion. That’s because a concussion is a metabolic rather than structural injury.

Our physicians can help you manage your concussion. Call (281) 378-4300 to make an appointment.

Concussion Facts

  • An athlete who sustains a concussion is four to six times more likely to sustain a second concussion—unless they have completely healed.

  • Effects of a concussion are cumulative in athletes who return to play before making a full recovery—that means that damage keeps building instead of healing.

  • High school-aged athletes take longer to recover from a concussion than adults.

  • Many concussions go unreported to coaches and trainers because athletes do not know the risks of concussions going untreated and are afraid of letting down their team.

  • No athlete should return to play while experiencing signs and/or symptoms of a concussion.

  • Repeated concussions can have an additive effect, lowering the threshold for symptoms from future concussions and potentially leading to a permanent cognitive injury called Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury.

  • The best way to prevent concussion problems is to effectively manage them when they occur.

For more information, please call (281) 351-6300.