A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. It may be caused by either a direct blow to the head, face, or neck or an indirect blow elsewhere to the body which transmits an impulsive force to the head. This causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth within the skull. When a concussion occurs, an “energy crisis” begins within the brain, which results in impaired brain function and the presentation of symptoms.
According to the Journal of Athletic Training, an estimated 300,000 sport-related brain injuries occur annually in the United States. Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 24 years.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion may appear minutes or hours following the injury. While most concussion symptoms can be categorized into four distinct classes, each individual who has sustained a concussion will experience a unique combination of symptoms.
Call 911 or seek care at the nearest emergency room if an individual experiences any of the following symptoms after a blow to the head:
Traditional tests that look at the brain, such as an MRI or CT Scan, will not show evidence of a concussion. While these advanced imaging techniques are utilized at times to further evaluate the structures of the brain or skull when appropriate, proper concussion diagnosis can be achieved by using a combination of non-invasive tests. Visits to our clinic include a detailed physical exam, vision and balance assessments and neurocognitive evaluation through Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT®). The ImPACT test is a 20-minute, internet-based, computerized test. It tracks objective information such as memory, reaction time, and concentration. If an athlete is believed to have suffered a head injury during practice or competition, ImPACT is a tool that can be used by a trained healthcare professional to evaluate the severity of the injury and help direct the athlete’s recovery.
Most individuals recover from a concussion quickly and completely if properly managed, while others may take several weeks or longer. Initially, the best care following a concussion is physical and cognitive rest. Following a comprehensive evaluation, a detailed plan can then be created to effectively and appropriately return an athlete to school, and eventually, safely return to sports. It is important to remember that concussions are treatable. One of the best ways to help recover is to learn more about what to expect in the days following the concussion and how to best manage symptoms.