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Concussions 101

Concussions 101

Everything You Need to Know About Concussions

According to the Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI), an estimated 1.6-3.8 million recreation-related concussions affect Americans each year. With such shockingly high statistics, it is essential that athletes know how to identify and address this form of traumatic brain injury when they happen.

The experts at Methodist Sports Medicine outline everything you need to know when it comes to looking after your brain health and returning to activity after a concussion.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when there is direct impact to the head or the body experiences impact that causes the brain to move back and forth rapidly in the skull. Although concussions are considered a mild TBI because they are not life-threatening, they should still be taken seriously as they can result in extensive damage to the brain if they are not appropriately addressed with medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion

Each year in the United States, there are nearly 3 million TBI-related emergency room visits. This is because injuries that involve the head and brain can cause permanent damage if they aren’t handled properly. With concussions and other TBI’s being so common, it is important that you know the warning signs that may suggest that you or someone else may have a concussion.

The following signs and symptoms typically point to the presence of a concussion or another TBI:

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Trouble balancing.
  • Forgetting events before or after the injury.
  • Delayed response time.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Difficulty multitasking.
  • Forgetting instruction.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Sound sensitivity.

What to Do If You Have a Concussion

If you or someone you know is displaying the above-mentioned signs, it is important that you are seen by a medical professional as quickly as possible. Your doctor will be able to evaluate the severity of your injury and refer you out to a specialist if needed.

However, if more serious symptoms are present, it is advised that you dial 9-1-1 or head to an emergency room immediately:

  • Seizure.
  • Trouble staying conscious.
  • Feeling weak.
  • Severe headache.
  • Clear liquid leaking from the nose or ears.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Worsening symptoms.

Common Misunderstandings About TBI’s

Concussions are not that serious because they are only mild brain injuries.

Though concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries, they should still be considered serious as they affect your brain. It is important that you seek immediate medical attention if you think you or someone around you are displaying signs of a concussion after hitting your head as they can result in life-long issues if left unaddressed.

MRI’s and CT scans can always identify brain injuries.

Although MRIs and CT scans can be used to check the brain for bleeding and skull fractures, they cannot always detect signs of brain trauma. In some cases, additional testing may be needed for an accurate diagnosis.

You need to stay awake for 24 hours after a concussion.

Although this is a common belief, there is actually no reason to keep someone conscious for a full 24 hours following a concussion if they have been cleared by a doctor. Resting is advised to help with the recovery process.

Concussions only affect athletes.

Although people who participate in full-contact sports like football and hockey are at an increased risk of experiencing a TBI, they are not the only ones who can. People can suffer from blows to the head or body that can cause trauma to the brain too. More often than not, concussions are a result of:

  • Falling
  • Car accidents
  • Biking accidents
  • Abuse
  • Returning to Activity After a Concussion

After having sustained a concussion, it is essential that athletes follow proper precautions as they return to their sport. It is important to keep in mind that if symptoms return at any point in this process, you should wait until you do not experience symptoms for at least 24 hours before returning to the previous step.

1. Reintroduce Light Aerobic Activity

Once your doctor has cleared you to start slowly reintroducing physical activity into your routine, it is important that you start out light. For the first few days, it is recommended that you engage in light aerobic activity. Some activities to try include:

  • Walking
  • Light jogging

2. Increase to Moderate-Intensity Activity

After the first few days, if you continue to see improvement, you should be able to slightly increase the intensity of your activity. Moderate-intensity workouts that get your heart rate up should be appropriate at this point. Some activities that you can try include:

  • Jogging
  • Short periods of running
  • Lifting weights at lower intervals and weight than usual

3. Slowly Introduce High-Impact Activities

While you still should not engage in contact activities, you can continue to increase your workout intensity. At this point, you should be able to return to your normal weight lifting limits and engage in the following activities:

  • Running
  • Sprinting
  • Biking

4. Go Back to Practice

At this point, you can return to full-contact practices and train as you previously did. Please be sure to pay attention to your body and pace yourself.

5. Return to Competitions

If you have adjusted completely and still haven't noticed a return of any symptoms, you should be okay when it comes to returning to games and com[etitions.

Sports Medicine in Dallas and Fort Worth

If you have sustained a sports injury, or you want to improve your overall athletic ability, Methodist Sports Medicine can help. See our full list of services or contact us for an appointment today.