Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that can occur as a result of a blow to the head or a sudden jerking movement of the head. It is important to detect signs of a concussion as soon as possible to get timely medical attention. Concussions can cause long-term problems with cognition and mental health. In this article, we will explain how to know if you have a concussion, the symptoms, the recovery process and the importance of seeking medical attention immediately.
The following are some common symptoms that indicate a person may have a concussion:
- Headaches: These can range from mild to severe and may be persistent.
- Nausea and vomiting: A person may feel nauseous or vomit after sustaining a head injury
- Dizziness: A person may feel lightheaded or unsteady on their feet
- Confusion: A person may feel disoriented or confused about their surroundings
- Fatigue: A person may feel tired or sleepy more often than usual or have trouble sleeping
- Difficulty in concentrating or remembering things: A person may have trouble focusing, paying attention, or remembering new things.
- Changes in mood: A person may experience changes in mood, such as feeling more irritable, emotional or anxious than usual.
- Sensitivity to light or noise: Loud noises or bright lights may cause discomfort and headaches
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms after a head injury, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Physical and Cognitive Testing
A healthcare provider will perform a physical and cognitive test to diagnose concussion. Here are some tests that a healthcare provider may conduct:
- Balance test: A healthcare provider will assess your balance by asking you to stand with your feet together and your eyes closed. They may ask you to balance on one leg or perform other physical tests
- Cognitive test: A healthcare provider will evaluate your memory, concentration, and response time through a series of questions and tests.
- Imaging test: In some cases, a healthcare provider may order an MRI or CT scan to look for signs of brain damage or bleeding
You can also perform a self-assessment at home. Here’s how:
- Symptom checklist: Refer to the above symptom list, and try to assess your symptom level.
- Memory test: Try to recall events from earlier in the day or things from recent conversations.
- Balancing test: Stand with your eyes closed and see if you can balance for 30 seconds.
If your symptoms persist, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Concussions
Concussions can be caused by many different things, but a few of the most common causes include:
- Sports injuries: Contact sports such as rugby, football, or hockey can result in concussions
- Car accidents: The impact of a crash can cause the brain to move violently within the skull, resulting in a concussion
- Falls: Falling and hitting your head on a hard surface is a common cause of concussions
- Violent shaking of the head: Shaking the head violently can cause the brain to bounce around inside the skull resulting in a concussion.
If you have sustained a head injury, it is important to consider the circumstances leading to the injury and whether you may have developed a concussion.
Timeline of Concussion Recovery
The recovery timeline for a concussion typically follows 5 stages:
- Rest and recovery: Rest is crucial as this is the time your brain needs to heal. Doing any physically or mentally strenuous activity must be avoided.
- Light activity: This stage involves gradually introducing light physical activities such as a short walk or light jogging.
- Getting back to regular activity: After returning to light activity without symptoms, you can then begin your usual daily routine. Be careful not to overwork yourself and trigger symptoms or setbacks.
- Sport practice: It is important to practice your chosen sport under a healthcare provider’s supervision, even if you are symptom-free.
- Game play: You can start playing games after getting cleared by your healthcare provider and the symptoms have completely disappeared.
It is important to follow these stages as healing time for a concussion can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
The best way to prevent a concussion is to stay safe and avoid accidents that could result in a head injury. Here are some tips that can help you stay safe:
- Wear helmets: Always wear a helmet while biking, skateboarding, or participating in contact sports.
- Use appropriate safety gear: Wearing mouth guards, protective pads, safety goggles can reduce your chances of getting a head injury.
- Play safely: Follow the rules of sports and avoid rough play that could result in head injuries.
- Drive safely: Always follow traffic laws and wear your seatbelt while driving.
Seeking Medical Help
If you have experienced any symptoms associated with a concussion, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. A healthcare provider will be able to diagnose the severity of your concussion and create a tailored treatment plan.
If you are unsure of where to find appropriate medical attention, you can start with your primary care physician. If you have experienced a concussion due to a sports injury, your school or sports organization may also have a healthcare provider that can help diagnose and treat concussions.
Knowing if you have a concussion is vital to your overall health and wellbeing. It is important to be aware of the symptoms that indicate a concussion and to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Recovery from a concussion is a gradual process, and it is important to follow the recommended recovery timeline. By following prevention strategies, you can reduce your chances of sustaining a concussion in the first place.