The human brain is an extremely complex and fragile organ, but it also controls every process in our bodies. Any damage, even mild, to the brain is worth taking seriously. Concussions are a mild form of a traumatic brain injury, but they can lead to serious problems if left untreated. It is important to understand how to spot a concussion and what to do if you may have suffered from one. AICA College Park offers specialists to help you diagnose concussions and develop treatment plans personalized to your needs.
Concussion is a broad term for any type of brain injury in which there is a short loss of normal brain function that results from a blow to the head or violent movement of the head. The force and sudden movement can cause the brain to move inside of the skull, creating chemical changes to the brain, stretching or damaging cells, and causing bruise-like injuries when met with the extremely durable skull. While concussions are generally considered a mild form of traumatic brain injury, they can still be dangerous if left untreated.
The most common cause of concussions is hitting the head against a hard surface. This may occur during a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a sports injury. Concussions can also occur when an outside object, like a ball, hits the head or when the brain is penetrated by an outside object. Athletes and military personnel are at higher risk of suffering a concussion.
Outside of the initial injury, it may be hard to recognize that you have a concussion. There may be a visible cut, bruise, or bump on your head, but there are usually no physical signs that the injury has occurred. This means you have to rely on recognizing cognitive and behavioral changes along with physical signs, and if your brain function is in fact impaired, you may not notice these things in yourself easily. It may help to have a loved one monitor you in the aftermath of an injury.
Another factor that can make this difficult is that concussion symptoms are not always immediately apparent. Physical symptoms may not appear until after adrenaline has worn off or the injury has worsened, and mental and cognitive symptoms may require time to notice. After sustaining a head injury, you should always seek treatment immediately to rule out any more severe issues like bleeding or swelling of the brain.
Physical symptoms of a concussion are commonly headaches, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and unusual fatigue and sleep habits. Sensitivity to light and sound are also common. However, concussions usually present with more non-physical symptoms over time.
Cognitive abilities may become impaired after suffering a concussion. Problems with memory or concentration are common, and some people will forget the accident or injury entirely. Skills like balance, coordination, critical thinking, and speech can all be experienced at varying levels. Personality changes and unusual irritability have also been observed. Mental states may be altered, leading to feelings of depression. These things may be more quickly noticed by someone other than you.
People of any age can experience a concussion, but both the very young and the very old are more susceptible. Children have heads that are disproportionately large when compared with the rest of their bodies, putting them in danger of concussions. As they enter adolescence, this may even out, but their rapid height and weight gain can leave them more prone to accidents, leaving them needing concussion treatment.
If a child in your life may have a concussion, they should be monitored closely for 24 hours. No medication should be given and you should wake them often to ensure they are not exhibiting signs. Watching for behavioral changes in children is critical as they may not be able to communicate their own feelings as well as an adult might.
When you visit a doctor with a concussion, they will grade your condition based on the severity of symptoms like loss of consciousness, amnesia, and loss of equilibrium. The grading scale is:
A health care professional will need to officially determine the grade of your injury to provide appropriate concussion treatment. This may also involve ruling out any other critical brain injuries that would require emergency treatment. Once they know this isn’t the case, they can help guide you on behaviors and remedies that will help you reach full recovery.
A doctor will take an oral history of your injury from you, or a witness if you suffered amnesia surrounding the incident, as well as perform physical evaluations. They may test your cognitive abilities, balance, or reflexes as a part of this visit. If more information is needed, you may be sent for diagnostic imaging of the brain to provide details.
If you are suffering from a concussion, your doctor will likely want to confirm their suspicions with various tests such as the CT scan, which will create a composite image of the brain using different angles of cross-sections.LEARN MORE
MRI scans can provide images of the brain using magnetic field technology and radio waves without the use of radiation. They show very detailed visuals of brain injuries like concussions.LEARN MORE
If you don’t require hospitalization or invasive treatment, your concussion treatment will primarily be a set of instructions to follow during your recovery at home. As long as symptoms don’t worsen, concussions will typically resolve with adherence to these guidelines.
Rest is the number one remedy recommended for a concussion. This includes taking a break from any sports or physical activity you normally participate in and spending more time at home. However, you will likely be told to avoid too much screen time as well. Phones, computers, and TVs should be limited in use during this time. You can also take a break from anything that requires a lot of brainpower like work or school. You should be cleared by your doctor before returning to even light exercise or physical activity. Pain can be treated during this time with aspirin-free medications.
You will also be advised to prevent future concussions, as they are known to have cumulative negative effects on the brain. Too many concussions can lead to brain swelling, permanent damage, or long-term disabilities. It is hard to prevent every cause of a concussion, especially when it is from a car accident.
Protective equipment like seat belts, or helmets where appropriate, are key. Avoiding fighting, reducing trip and fall hazards, and regular work on balance and coordination are also ways to prevent concussions.
Whether you have suffered a blow to the head recently or are exhibiting signs of a concussion, prompt medical care is crucial. At AICA College Park, neurologists on site will be able to assess your head for any injuries, including a concussion, using onsite diagnostic equipment in addition to their experience. With a network of specialists at their fingertips, you will get a holistic concussion treatment experience that focuses on helping you safely make a full recovery.
While concussions often resolve on their own, this early intervention is critical to prevent damage from worsening and rule out more urgent situations. The supervision and guidance of a doctor will ensure your healing is complete and speedy. Contact AICA College Park today for an initial evaluation.