Patient Information: Concussions
What is a concussion?
- A mild traumatic brain injury occurring when impact causes the brain to move suddenly within the skull
- There may be no “obvious hit” to the head
- Typically does not involve brain damage/bleeding
- Temporarily impacts brain function What are the symptoms of a concussion?
- Symptoms can vary between people, but may include some combination of: Headache, dizziness, poor balance, nausea/vomiting, memory loss, irritability, mood swings, or sleep changes
- Concussions may include a loss of consciousness, but someone who is conscious after a head injury can still have a concussion o Symptoms may begin immediately after a head injury, or may not appear for several days
How are concussions diagnosed?
- The severity of a concussion is determined by the severity of the symptoms
- Have a family member or friend help you keep track of what your symptoms are and when they appearedwriting them in a journal may be helpful
- Your physician will review this journal of symptoms, along with performing a neurological exam (for vision, hearing, reflexes, balance, and coordination) and a neuropsychological exam (for memory, attention, critical thinking, communication, and emotional lability)
- If you have an ImPACT test (concussion screening) baseline score, you will take the test again to compare your scores
- In severe head injury cases, or cases that do not improve over time, a head MRI or CT may be ordered
How are concussions treated?
- Your physician will work with your athletic trainer, teachers, and employers to manage recovery
- MA state law requires a physician certified in concussion management to clear youth athletes for return to play
- Physical rest: Stopping all exercise activities
- Mental rest: Limiting “screen time”, reading, work
- A multi-disciplinary approach is used: Medications, neuropsychology, cognitive rehabilitation, vestibular therapy, neurology, otolaryngology, speech therapy
- When you are symptom free, you may begin a slow progression back to regular activities
- Recovery is critical before returning to impact situations: Long-term problems are much more likely if another concussion occurs before you heal
- First time concussion: Typical recovery is 7-10 days
- For subsequent concussions, or particularly severe concussions: Recovery may take weeks to months
How can I prevent a concussion or decrease the severity?
- Prevention is very important, as one concussion puts you at greater risk to sustain additional concussions
- Recurrent concussions can have negative longterm consequences for brain health
- Incorporate neck strengthening into exercise routines- this is the only evidence-based method of reducing risk of subsequent concussion- see below
- Use appropriate athletic equipment such as properly fitted helmets and mouthguards
- “Play smart” during tackling and impact plays
- To help prevent long-term damage, seek prompt medical help if having symptoms of a concussion
Where can I learn more about concussions?
- Education - OrthoInfo: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/sports-concussion/
- STACK Concussion Prevention Neck Strengthening: http://files.leagueathletics.com/Text/Documents/8839/59417.pdf
- imPACT test information: https://www.impacttest.com/
To schedule an appointment, visit the Steward St. Elizabeth’s Sports Medicine website at: semc.org/services-directory/orthopedics/sportsmedicine
STEWARD MEDICAL GROUP Bone & Joint Center
736 Cambridge St, CCP9, Brighton, MA 02135
Phone 617-779-6500 Fax 617-779-6555
Adapted from: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org), Hospital for Special Surgery (www.hss.edu), Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org) This information is for patient reference only. It is not intended to diagnose or guide treatment without evaluation by a physician.