Understanding a Concussion

Sports Neurology Services

A concussion is a type of injury to the brain caused by trauma to the head. Long thought to be something only athletes are at risk of, the truth about concussions is that they can happen to anyone.

While it is true that many concussions are caused by a direct impact to the head, they can also occur if the head or upper body is shaken forcefully. That means hard falls (even if the head doesn't make contact), motor vehicle accidents, and any other type of injury that rattles the brain inside of the skull can all result in a concussion.

It is impossible to tell simply by looking at someone whether he or she has sustained a concussion. While there could be visible injuries to the head or face that might indicate one, they are not always present. Some people will pass out when they suffer a concussion, others may not. They may also forget what happened at the time of or just before the injury. Still others will not have these types of symptoms at all. Because of how wide the variation is in the way symptoms manifest, some people can sustain a concussion and not know it.

If you suspect you have suffered a concussion, I can help evaluate your condition.

Common Concussion Symptoms

Most concussions are mild, but they all cause some injury to the brain and must be evaluated by an expert trained in recognizing them and treating them accordingly, in a timely manner. It can take a few hours, or even up to a few weeks to recover from a concussion.

If the concussion is severe or has not been handled appropriately right away, the injury could lead to bleeding in or around the brain and may lead to long-term damage that causes the individual to have trouble with movement, speaking, and learning. In rare instances, severe concussions can be fatal. Knowing what to do and what to look for if you suspect a concussion is essential.

If someone has any of these symptoms after a head injury, even one that seems minor, it is important to contact a doctor right away to minimize further damage and complications:

  • Unclear thinking
  • A slowed down feeling
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to remember
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Problems with balance
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep problems

While most concussions are mild and will subside with rest and minimal intervention, there are some that are far more serious and require emergency medical intervention. Symptoms of a serious concussion include vomiting repeatedly or uncontrollably, losing consciousness for more than 30 seconds, headaches that worsen with time, stumbling, clumsiness (or other severe changes in body coordination), severe confusion, and speech changes.

Again, only trained medical professionals will be able to tell if someone has a concussion or not. Seek medical help after head injuries that result in any of these symptoms. Physicians will ask questions about the injury, and they will perform neurological tests to determine whether a concussion is the cause of the symptoms.

How is a concussion diagnosed?

An official concussion diagnosis can only come from a thorough neurological evaluation. Depending on the extent of the injury, your physician might conduct tests to evaluate thinking and mental processing skills such as recall and memory, as well as your ability to concentrate.

Once your physician asks detailed questions about the injury that was sustained, he or she will check the following for signs:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Hearing
  • Reflexes
  • Strength & Sensory Processing
  • Vision

For people who have sustained possibly severe concussion injuries, brain imaging examination might be necessary. These types of tests can help determine whether there is any swelling or bleeding on or near the brain.

A CT (Computerized Tomography) scan is the examination that is typically selected to assess the brain immediately after an injury has occurred. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) may also be indicated to view any suspected bleeding in the brain or to diagnose injuries that are the result of a previous concussion.

Treating a Concussion

When it is determined that the symptoms are the result of a concussion, then two of the remedies that may be suggested in less severe cases are time and rest.

These are among the best medicines for a mild concussion:

  • Plenty of sleep at night, and rest during the day.
  • Avoid mentally and physically taxing activities.

Over-the-counter pain medications or those prescribed by a physician. You should not take any other medications until you speak with a doctor and ask them about that medicine in particular. Most of the time, people will return to feeling like themselves again within a couple of hours or a couple of days. Still, others may need weeks or months to completely recover. Everybody is different, so close monitoring by a trained and skilled neurological expert is crucial.

Minimizing Concussion Risks

Preventing concussions may seem like common sense, such as wearing seatbelts when you are in cars and wearing helmets to ride bikes and play sports with contact. However, accidents can and do happen all the time, on and off of the field. Since head injuries and concussions can occur even when you take preventative measures, it is important to understand the importance of visiting the doctor whenever they are suspected.

Among the most important factors in minimizing concussion risk is education. Teaching athletes, parents and coaches about what to look for and why immediate intervention is important are critical factors to ensuring concussion risks are minimized in the people who suffer them.

Contact Vernon B. Williams, MD, Inc.

As a board certified neurologist with 20 years of experience, I am the neurology expert you can turn to for an expert witness. I have provided trial testimony more than 80 times for both plaintiff and defense cases.

If you have a concussion-related case on your hands, please do not hesitate to contact me as soon as possible.