Concussion health facts
- A concussion is a type of brain injury from a sudden jolt or blow to the head resulting in temporary unconsciousness or such effects as confusion, headache and short-term incapacity.
- The goal of concussion treatments is to give the brain time to heal while avoiding re-injury to the injured brain.
- At HealthFit we use the ImPACT® testing system as a baseline evaluation before a concussion and for post-injury testing to help with diagnosis and guiding when it is safe for a patient to return to activities or sports.
What is a concussion?
It is an injury to the brain that may cause a period of unconsciousness and always temporarily affects brain function. Concussions can impair reflexes, memory, judgment, speech, muscle coordination and balance. These brain injuries are most often caused by an accident, fall or sports-related impact, such as in football.
A concussion is usually caused by a blow to the head or severe and sudden movement without head contact, exerting strong force on the brain, often knocking it against the inside of the skull. In most cases there are no external signs of trauma. A person does not need to lose consciousness for a concussion to occur. Though a cause for concern and medical treatment, this is a mild traumatic brain injury.
According to the University of Pittsburgh’s Brain Trauma Center, it is estimated that more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States.
A concussion is a serious concern and even mild cases should not be taken lightly. A single concussion if diagnosed and treated should not cause permanent damage. But a second one close to the first can lead to permanent disabilities or death.
Head injury prevention
Follow the below tips to minimize or prevent the chances of a head injury.
- Do not lead with your head in contact sports.
- Wear protective gear that is fitted properly.
- Buckle your seat belt.
- Exercise regularly to improve balance and strength.
- Educate yourself and others about concussions.
- Make your home safe by reducing the chance for falls.
Symptoms of a concussion
Concussion symptoms typically appear right after the injury is sustained and are temporary. But they can show up hours or even days after the initial impact. Symptoms may persist for one to two weeks or longer.
A concussion can lead to an array of signs and symptoms, which may include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Impaired cognitive abilities (confusion, disorientation, dazed, forgetful).
- Slow or slurred speech.
- Balance problems and clumsiness.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Sensitivity to light and sound.
- Behavioral or personality changes.
When to go to the emergency room
A person should be taken to the emergency room for evaluation immediately if one or more of following occur:
- Loses consciousness for more than a brief moment.
- Complaints of neck or back pain.
- Displays signs of a seizure.
- Loss of vision.
- Has a headache that steadily worsens over time (a potential sign of brain bleeding).
- Not acting like himself or herself.
- Repeated vomiting.
- Changes in coordination.
- Slurred speech.
- Confusion or disorientation.
Post-concussion syndrome happens when symptoms of a concussion stick around for weeks or months, and in some cases the symptoms are permanent. Common symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome include chronic headaches, sleep difficulties, personality changes, dizziness or memory problems. Post-concussion syndrome happens in about 20 percent of concussion cases.
The goal for a patient suffering from post-concussion syndrome is to effectively manage the symptoms. It is important to see the doctor as soon as a patient shows symptoms as early detection is key.
ImPACT concussion management for evaluation and treatment
Dr. Kiyoshi Yamazaki, HealthFit’s sports medicine physician, uses the ImPACT application coupled with standard sports medicine concussion protocols to provide HealthFit patients with the safest and most effective concussion management. ImPACT stands for immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing.
This computer-based program is commonly used in assessing professional athletes. But now this tool can also be used for a grade-schooler suffering an injury during her first soccer game, for the high school football star, for adult weekend warriors and for everyone in between.
The ImPACT application is a collection of neurocognitive assessments administered online that assist in the evaluation of an athlete’s injury and recovery following a concussion. It helps Dr. Yamazaki evaluate multiple aspects of neurocognitive functioning, including attention span, memory, reaction time, brain processing speed and post-concussive symptoms.
Treatment and recovery
Generally, recovering from a concussion involves lots of rest, avoiding visually strenuous activities, and a protocol-based reintroduction to daily routines and physical activity and academics.
Athletes who are not fully recovered are very susceptible to recurrent and catastrophic consequences if a second concussion occurs. Due to this, no athlete should return to at-risk activities while recovery is taking place.
Dr. Yamazaki uses ImPACT testing to monitor the patient during recovery and to go over how to avoid future concussions. The goal in our sports medicine clinic is to diagnose and resolve the acute concussion as quickly as possible to avoid complications and return the athlete to the sport as soon as possible. However, he will also orchestrate expedited referral to a neurologist if complications arise beyond his level of expertise.