What to do if you get a concussion

Concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) are the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI).  On average 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually, resulting in:

    • 52,000 deaths
    • 275,000 hospitalizations
    • 1,365,000 ED visits

TBI’s can lead to permanent disability and are a contributing factor to 30.5% of all injury-related deaths in the U.S.  In 2000, medical costs as a result of TBI totaled approximately $60 billion.

What is a concussion?

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head resulting in a temporary loss of brain function, and potentially causing numerous physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms.  Concussions do not always result in a loss of consciousness; thus some people have had a concussion but not realized it. Concussions may be the catalyst for many brain diseases including depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Symptoms of a concussion:

·       Confusion

·       Amnesia

·       Headache

·       Dizziness

·       ringing in the ears

·       nausea or vomiting

·       slurred speech

·       fatigue

·       unequal pupil size

There has been an increase in sports related concussions

The number of children treated in emergency department for concussions obtained while playing sports has doubled over the past decade.  Football is the sport most commonly associated with concussions.  According to research symptoms can progress for years after head trauma and can progress in the following way:

    • 1. Starts with headaches and problems with concentration in the early stages
    • 2. If its followed by depression, aggression, explosive anger and short-term memory loss
    • 3. Then comes more serious cognitive impairment
    • 4. Eventually leads to full-blown dementia where a person doesn’t recognize loved ones

What measures have been taken to prevent concussions in sports?

Some universities use Hit Count Technology to establish safe numbers of “hit counts” that specific players can take during a given season.  Sports equipment companies have developed helmets that are designed to take harder hits than regular helmets, thus reducing the risk of concussion.  In general, teaching proper tackling technique and avoiding helmet-to-helmet collisions is the best prevention from concussions.

What to do if you get a concussion:

                  There are a number of things you can do if you think or know you have a concussion.  You should get immediate medical attention is you are experiencing any of the classic symptoms like:

  • Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
  • Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
  • Feeling dazed or confused
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure

Although simple, one of the best things you can do is rest and give your brain time to recover. Doctors, depending on your symptoms can run neurological tests, CT scans and MRI scans to assess the severity of the concussion and possible injury.