A concussion is a type of brain injury that's caused by a sudden blow to the head or to the body. The blow shakes the brain inside the skull, which temporarily prevents the brain from functioning normally.

When a blow occurs, some people may feel the effects of a concussion immediately, such as passing out or feeling lightheaded. Others, however, may not. With proper rest, most people will fully recover from a concussion in a few hours or weeks, depending on its severity.

Concussions can cause additional problems. Repeated concussions or a severe concussion may require surgery or lead to long-term problems related to movement, learning or speech.

Because of this possibility, the sports medicine experts at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program recommend that you see a doctor if you have any symptoms of a concussion or if you received an unusually hard blow to the head or body.


What Causes a Concussion?

The brain is actually a soft organ that's surrounded by spinal fluid and protected from the outside world by the skull. Normally, the fluid acts as a shock absorber that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. If you're hit unexpectedly hard, your brain can crash into the skull itself, temporarily interrupting its normal functions.
Concussions are most often associated with rough or high-speed sports such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, skateboarding or snowboarding.


Symptoms of a Concussion

It's not always easy to tell if someone has a concussion because the effects may not be felt immediately and not everyone reacts the same to a blow to the head or body. If a person may have suffered a concussion, it's recommended that you stop their activity. Becoming active again before the brain can return to normal functioning can increase the person's risk of having a more serious brain injury.

Concussions can range from mild to severe and can last hours, days, weeks or even months. If you notice any symptom of a concussion, contact your doctor promptly.

Symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Passing out.
  • Not being able to remember what happened after the injury.
  • Acting confused, asking the same question over and over, slurring words or not being able to concentrate.
  • Feeling lightheaded, seeing "stars," having blurry vision or experiencing ringing in the ears.
  • Not being able to stand or walk; or having coordination and balance problems.
  • Feeling nauseous or throwing up.

If a child sustains a blow, it can be hard to tell if they suffered a concussion. If your child has been hit unexpectedly hard, you'll want to contact your doctor to find out what you should do.

If a person has a more serious concussion, new symptoms may develop over time and may be suffering from post-concussive syndrome.

Post-concussive symptoms include:

  • Changes in your ability to think, concentrate or remember.
  • Headaches or blurry vision.
  • Changes in your sleep patterns, such as not being able to sleep or sleeping all the time.
  • Changes in your personality such as becoming angry or anxious for no clear reason.
  • Lack of interest in your usual activities.
  • Changes in your sex drive.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or unsteadiness that makes standing or walking difficult.


Preventing a Concussion

You can reduce your chances of getting a concussion by:

  • Wearing a helmet or activity-specific safety equipment when participating in high-risk sports.
  • Making sure athletic grounds are as accident-proof as possible. This includes lighting dark areas, fixing uneven surfaces and padding edges on sharp objects.
  • Avoiding alcohol, illegal drugs and any activities that could lead to another head injury.


Treatment for a Concussion

If you suspect someone has had a concussion, you want to watch them closely for any changes in behavior or for the appearance of any new symptoms. Some people may have to stay in the hospital for observation.

If a concussion was sustained during a sporting event, you should be sure the injured athlete sees a doctor before returning to play.

Additional treatments for a concussion include:

  • Ice or cold packs to reduce the swelling.
  • Pain medicine recommended by the doctor, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion.
  • Get plenty of sleep at night and take it easy during the day.

Some people may feel normal again in a few hours. Others may continue to display symptoms for weeks or months. After a concussion, it's best to err on the side of caution and leave yourself time to get better and return to your regular level of activity slowly.

If you have questions you can contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to schedule an appointment.