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Concussion, or traumatic brain injury resulting from a blow to the head, can create immediate and long-term concerns for patients. Concussion management involves both certified physicians and athletic trainers who can help diagnose and treat the injury and guide patients to recovery.
Typically, concussions occur during high-impact sports such as football, falls, being struck by or against objects, and motor vehicle crashes. While most concussions are mild and resolve quickly, some can have lasting consequences such as concentration problems, headaches and depression. Delaying treatment will delay recovery and can make symptoms worse.
Key to avoiding and treating concussion is widening awareness about brain injury. As many as 3.8 million people suffer concussion in the United States every year during sports and recreational activities, yet concussion is often underreported by athletes. Contrary to popular belief, a patient does not always lose consciousness with a concussion. Symptoms might not appear immediately but could emerge within 24 to 48 hours. If a concussion is suspected, the individual should seek the advice of a healthcare professional before resuming any sports or other recreational activity.
Concussion symptoms include:
Loss of consciousness
Double or fuzzy vision
Slow reaction time
Sensitivity to light and sound
Feeling sluggish, foggy or groggy
Concussion care specialists use a variety of tools to diagnose concussion. No single test can determine whether an individual has a concussion, but there are several tests that can be performed to ensure brain activity is normal. These tests include the following:
Neurological exam: If the athlete displays concussion symptoms, the doctor will perform a neurological examination, which includes checking the vision, hearing, strength and sensation, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
Cognitive testing: Doctors also typically perform cognitive testing to evaluate cognition, memory, concentration, and ability to recall information.
Imaging tests: While brain imaging tests can’t detect a concussion, the doctor may order them to determine the severity of the injury and the possibility of any dangerous bleeding or swelling in the skull. A CT scan is a series of X-rays that creates cross-sectional images of the skull and brain. An MRI may be conducted to view bleeding or complications that could occur after a concussion. This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain.
Helping Patients Heal
If a concussion is the diagnosis, specialists will advise rest, the most important treatment for healing this injury. The worst thing to do with a concussion is to participate in any physical activity, which will prolong the healing process and aggravate symptoms. Where needed, physical therapy will help restore balance and vestibular function. The team of healthcare providers can also help the individual determine the best time to resume sports and other activities.
If you think you or someone you know has suffered a concussion, it’s critical to seek care immediately. Contact our specialists in concussion care at TK.