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Caring for a Concussion

Thursday, Feb 12, 2015

When you hear the word concussion, you likely think sports injury. But the fact is anyone can have a concussion – a fall from the monkey bars, a fender bender, a flip off a skateboard onto the sidewalk can all cause concussion.

"A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or upper body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth," explains Michelle Horn, DO, who is fellowship-trained in sports medicine and concussion management.

Even a mild traumatic brain injury can change the way the brain normally works. While concussions are essentially invisible (no brain scan can confirm a concussion), there are recognizable signs and symptoms. These may be subtle and not immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer.

Concussion Symptoms

  • Physical ­– Headache, nausea, vomiting, balance issues, ringing in the ears, dizziness, fatigue and sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Cognitive ­–Mental fogginess, difficulty concentrating and/or remembering, and slowed thinking
  • Emotional ­– Increased irritability, sadness, nervousness, or feeling more emotional than usual
  • Sleep ­– Drowsiness, sleeping more or less than usual, and trouble falling asleep

Often, the question arises regarding when to seek emergency care. Keep in mind that even a small traumatic brain injury is traumatic and can lead to more serious injuries.

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI. Of these, nearly 80% are treated and released from an emergency department, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Find a Pediatrician Near You

Visit the Emergency Room if You Experience

  • A loss of consciousness lasting more than a minute
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination
  • Symptoms that worsen over time
  • Things just don't seem right

"Following a concussion, the brain requires cognitive and physical rest. I instruct patients not to do anything that can make symptoms worse," says Dr. Horn. She adds, "Generally, most individuals recover fully and are back to normal function within two to three weeks. However, let your doctor tell you for certain when you're ready to return to life as you know it."

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