Definition: A mild traumatic brain injury that occurs after an injury to the head. This can occur with or without loss of consciousness
Symptoms: A concussion will impact your physical, emotional, and mental well-being
Physical: dizziness, headaches, imbalance, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, blurred vision, sensitivity to light/sound, fatigue
Emotional: irritability, restlessness, anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggression, or decrease tolerance of stress.
Cognitive/Thinking: difficulty with memory, confusion, slowed processing, fogginess, and difficulty concentrating/focusing
Impact on Life: Trauma to the brain results in an inefficiency of the brain to carry out normal physiologic processes. This results in the symptoms listed above. Therefore it can make it difficult to return to previous activities including exercise, work, and school. For 9 out of 10 people, concussion symptoms only last 7-10 days, however for some, symptoms linger, this is considered Post-Concussion Syndrome (see below).
Diagnosis: no single test will prove you have a concussion, it will not show up on an MRI/X-ray. However a series of eye movement tests done by a physician or physical therapist coupled with a history of head trauma and symptoms can diagnose a concussion.
Falling (especially in young children or older adults)
Being in a car crash, military combat, physical abuse
Previous concussion (history of concussions will increase the severity and longevity of symptoms,
High risk sports without proper safety equipment/supervision
What Should I Do
1. Schedule an appointment with PCP, sports physician, or neurologist,
2. See a physical therapist for a vestibular assessment
3. Limit exertion both with physically and cognitively (school/work) especially as these can exacerbate symptoms.
4. Athletes who have a concussion should NOT return to exercise, especially if concussion symptoms are still present. Instead, consult physician or physical therapist
1. Wear Protective gear during sports and other recreational activities: Make sure it is worn correctly and fits properly.
2. Buckle Your Seat Belt
3. Make your home safe: Keep it well-lit and floors uncluttered and level/smooth to reduce falls at home
4. Exercise Regularly: Strengthen your body so that there is less of a risk of losing your balance, especially if you fall or lose your balance frequently
Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)
PCS is a disorder where symptoms of concussion last for weeks, months or even over a year after injury. In some cases these symptoms will not arise until a couple months after the head injury. There is no proven connection between the severity of the injury and the likelihood of developing persistent post-concussion symptoms. However people who are more at risk for PCS include those with previous history of concussion, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and significant life stressors. If you have symptoms of concussion even if it happened weeks or months before, contact your physician or a trusted PT.