Prevention and Wellness

Answers to Common Concussion Questions

Premier Health’s Sports Medicine doctors answer frequently asked questions about concussions.

What is a concussion, and what are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Dr. Harrington discusses what a concussion is and signs and symptoms of a concussion. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What is a concussion?

 

Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

 

A concussion is the most common kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can be caused by getting hit on the head, a blow to the neck or even a hard hit to the upper body, according to the Brain Injury Association of AmericaOff Site Icon (BIAA). The hit changes the way your brain would normally work.

Typically, concussions are caused by a fall or by a hard hit to the body that caused the head to be thrown quickly forward and back, according to the BIAA. Concussions are sometimes called “mild” brain injuries because they aren’t usually life threatening, but they should still be considered serious injuries.

Concussion symptoms generally fall into four categories, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon(CDC), are:

  • Emotional/mood: irritability, sadness, overly emotional, nervousness, anxiety
  • Physical: headache, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light or sound, balance problems, feeling tired, lacking energy, loss of consciousness
  • Sleep: sleeping more than usual, sleeping less than usual, having trouble sleeping
  • Thinking/remembering: difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly, difficulty remembering new information, feeling slowed down

Not all of these symptoms appear right after a concussion though. Some symptoms might not be noticeable for days or months after the injury, according to the CDC.

For more information about signs and symptoms of a concussion, talk with your doctor.

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How long does a concussion last?

Dr. Harrington discusses how long a concussion lasts. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

While most people with a concussion are quick to recover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC), other people have symptoms that can last much longer.

Older adults, young children, teens and people who have had a concussion before typically have the slowest recovery time, according to the CDC.

The severity of the concussion will also affect how quickly you recover, which could be hours, days, weeks, months or longer, according to the Brain Injury Association of AmericaOff Site Icon (BIAA). The American Academy of Neurology and the BIAA use three levels – Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 – to differentiate the severity of a concussion, with Grade 1 being the least bad and Grade 3 being the worst.

For more information about concussion recovery time, talk with your doctor.

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How can someone alleviate the symptoms of a concussion?

Dr. Harrington discusses alleviating concussion symptoms. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

After a concussion, people usually want to know how to feel better and make all the symptoms go away. The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) recommends the following tips for recovering from a concussion:

  • Alcoholic beverages should be avoided
  • Avoid physically demanding activities, including heavy housecleaning, weightlifting and working out
  • Avoid recreational and contact sports so you don’t get another concussion
  • Bright lights and loud sounds can overstimulate the brain, so try to avoid those.
  • Do one thing at a time, especially if you are having trouble with being easily distracted
  • Do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate heavy machinery until cleared by your doctor, as you might have slower reaction time from the concussion
  • Don’t work on the computer or play video games during the early parts of our recovery
  • Eat well
  • Get plenty of sleep at night
  • Only take medications approved by your doctor
  • Rest during the day
  • Return to normal activities gradually rather than all at once (only when your physician says you are well enough)
  • Return to work gradually, if possible, maybe considering changing to a light-duty work load or an easier schedule, such as half-days
  • Talk with family and/or close friends when making important decisions
  • Write down things that seem difficult to remember

Of all these recovery tips, taking time to rest is the most important thing you can do to help your brain heal after a concussion, according to the CDC.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about recovery after a concussion.

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What does “rest” mean when someone has a concussion?

Rest is very important after a concussion, especially for your brain. The brain needs to rest to help it heal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Some people try to ignore the symptoms of a concussion and “tough it out,” but trying to work through the symptoms usually makes them worse, according to the CDC. Using electronics – especially

For more information about resting after a concussion, talk with your doctor.

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What are neurological baseline testing and computerized testing for athletes?

Dr. Rayborn discusses computerized testing and neurological baseline testing. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Neurological baseline testing is done before an athlete starts a sports season so there is a baseline of brain function on record. The test records memory skills, reaction time and impulse control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). The baseline test could also include information about any history of concussion.

If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, a second computerized test can be done to evaluate the same types of functions, including reaction time, ability to concentrate and memory, according to the CDC.

Medical professionals can then compare the baseline test results to the post-injury results to help decide if the athlete has an injury and how severe the injury is, according to the CDC. ImPACT software is used by Premier Health to handle this after-injury computerized testing.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what baseline and follow up computerized testing are.

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Is there any game equipment or rules in sports that help prevent a concussion?

Wearing the right safety gear and following the rules of each sport are important steps to preventing a concussion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The CDC recommends that during sports games and practices, you:

  • Follow the rules – especially the safety rules – for the sport
  • If you have a concussion or suspected concussion, do not play a sport again until you have been told my your doctor it’s OK
  • Practice good sportsmanship
  • Use the right equipment for the sport you are playing
  • Wear a properly fitted helmet, especially for contact and other sports, including, baseball, skiing football hockey and lacrosse
  • Wear a properly fitted helmet when doing other activities including riding a bike, riding a snowmobile, riding a scooter, rollerblading, skateboarding, riding a horse and sledding

It is also important to check with your school or sports league about its concussion policy, says the CDC. Working with the school or league to make sure everyone is following the rules and playing with the right safety equipment can help reduce the concussion risk of everyone participating.

Taking care of your brain can help prevent a concussion and can help prevent serious brain damage from a second concussion, if you have already had one, according to the CDC.

For more information about concussion prevention, talk with your physician.

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When is it safe to return to play after a concussion?

Dr. Rayborn discusses returning to playing sports after a concussion. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Recovering from a concussion and returning to play can take a different amount of time for every person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). It is important to work closely with your physician and caregivers and be honest about your symptoms so you can follow a healthy path back into your sport.

The CDC recommends a five step return-to-play progression for physicians to follow with athletes before recommending they are in good shape to play again. That return to play plan includes these steps:

  • Baseline – During this time, the athlete needs to be physically and cognitively restful and not experience concussion symptoms at all for at least 24 hours.
  • Step 1 – Light aerobic exercise for five to 10 minutes with a goal of increasing the athlete’s heart rate. This could include an exercise bike, walking, or light jogging.
  • Step 2 – Moderate exercise that is still reduced from the athlete’s typical routine. The goal is to provide limited body and head movement, and exercises could include moderate jogging, brief running, stationary bike and moderate-intensity weightlifting.
  • Step 3 – Non-contact exercise with a goal of getting close to your typical workout routine. Exercises could include running, high-intensity stationary biking, regular weightlifting, non-contact sport-specific drills and some cognitive components.
  • Step 4 – Practice the sport by reintegrating full contact.
  • Step 5 – Return to competition.

You and your physician should work together to monitor your symptoms and your cognitive function as you move through the steps and add to your exercise level. Athletes should only move to the next step once they no longer have any symptoms at their current step, according to the CDC. It could take several weeks or months to work through all the steps.

For more information about getting back to playing your sport after a concussion, talk with your doctor.

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How do concussions affect classroom performance?

Though a concussion will not affect most students’ return to the classroom, sometimes a concussion can change a student’s ability to learn, participate and perform well in school. It can also have a negative effect on a student’s ability to concentrate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon(CDC).

Concussion symptoms can more specifically appear through slow reading, difficulty with multi-step math problems and the student being easily distracted, according to the CDC.

The student’s doctor should determine when he or she is ready to return to school. The physician, parents and educational professionals from the school should team together with the student to continue to monitor the student’s symptoms and behaviors, according to the CDC. Everyone on this team should openly share additional needs of the student and find ways to help with the recovery process.

A student who is having trouble returning to his or her regular school routine, might need to take a step back and ease more gradually into the school day, according to the CDC. This plan might include a shorter school day or shortened activity during the school day – such as 10 minutes of reading instead of 30 minutes – and more cognitive rest time.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how a concussion can affect a student’s return to school.

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What are the State of Ohio’s laws regarding concussion care in athletes?

As of the beginning of 2014, every state in the United States has sports concussion legislation on the books. The State of Ohio is no exception, with specifics as to concussion awareness before a child plays a sport and what is to happen if a child shows symptoms during practice or game play.

According to the Brain Injury Association of AmericaOff Site Icon (BIAA), Ohio laws regarding concussions in schools:

  • Allow students to return to practice and play once they have written medical clearance that they are safe
  • Do not let students practice for or compete in school sports if they show any signs or symptoms they got a concussion during a practice or competition
  • Prohibit people from being school sport referees unless they have a public activity program permit and have proof they have completed a training program about recognizing concussions
  • Prohibit schools from letting students practice or play a sport unless the students have turned in parent-signed form stating they received a concussion information sheet
  • Stop coaches or referees from allowing students with possible concussions to return to play or practice until they have been seem and cleared by a doctor or another qualified health professional

It is estimated that 400,000 high school student athletes in the U.S. had concussions while practicing for or playing five major male and four major female sports between the 2005 and 2008 school years, according to the BIAA. The high number of concussions – and the idea that there are even more that go unreported – are why these laws are so important.

For more information about the State of Ohio’s laws regarding concussion care, talk with your doctor.

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To schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician or Credentialed ImPACT Consultant call (844) 866-4323(844) 866-4323 or complete the form below to receive a call from our scheduling department to make an appointment.

 

Source: Robert Harrington, MD, Family Medicine of Huber Heights; Michael Barrow, MD, Samaritan North Family Physicians; Jeffrey Rayborn, MD, Premier Orthopedics

Content Updated: July 11, 2018

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