With the NFL, college, and high school football seasons now in full swing, the topic of concussions once again rises to the forefront in the minds of many concerned players and families. But, it's important to realize and remember that you don't have to play a contact sport to suffer a concussion.
You may be familiar with the term concussion, and you probably even know that a concussion is an injury to your brain caused by sudden impact. But, do you know the signs and symptoms of a concussion? And, would you be able to tell if your loved one was concussed?
According to a new Abbott's Concussion IQ Survey, a large number of American adults lack basic understanding of concussion signs and symptoms, as well as, concussion risks and proper treatment. The Center for Disease Control, (CDC) reports that approximately four people in the United States experience a concussion every minute, while the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine found that an estimated fifty percent of all sports related minor brain injuries go unreported. Those figures are especially alarming when you consider that diagnosing a possible concussion as soon as possible is crucial in applying the appropriate treatment. Which, in turn, increases the likelihood of a full recovery from concussion symptoms, and may help prevent long term brain damage associated with repeated concussion.
The Abbott survey's findings – as to our understanding and misunderstanding of concussions – include the following points:
- American adults are five times more likely to seek medical attention for a broken bone than if they thought they had a concussion,
- Over eighty percent of American adults mistakenly believe a person should not sleep and/or be woken up periodically after being diagnosed with a concussion,
- Six out of ten American adults don't understand that treating a concussion includes mental rest, which includes limiting smart phone use, video gaming, and similar activities,
- Sixty-four percent of American adults say they did not seek medical attention the last time they hit their head very hard - while ninety percent say they would seek medical attention for a child, and,
- Almost seventy percent of parents would not send their child to school the day after they hit their head very hard - but over half say they would still go to work or school themselves after a hard hit to the head.
Concussion, also termed mild traumatic brain injury, can be properly described as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts proper brain function. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common symptoms associated with concussion may include the following:
- The temporary loss of consciousness,
- Being confused or feeling as though your thoughts are "foggy,"
- Providing delayed responses to questions,
- Having any memory loss about the concussing event,
- Having a headache or feeling pressure in the head,
- Nausea and/or vomiting,
- Any dizziness or issues with vision,
- Appearing dazed,
- Any ringing in the ears,
- Any slurred speech, and/or,
- Showing any signs of fatigue.
Importantly, the Mayo Clinic also points out that the onset of some symptoms can be delayed by hours or even days after the actual concussion occurs. So, it's important to look for these potentially delayed symptoms too:
- Problems with concentration and complaints relating to memory retention,
- Sleep related disturbances,
- Irritability and other personality changes,
- An increased sensitivity to light and noise,
- Psychological adjustment problems and depression, and/or,
- Disorders involving taste and/or smell
So, now that you know what to look for, what should you do if you suspect someone you know has suffered a concussion?
Because diagnosis of concussions are ideally made by a healthcare professional familiar with the patient and knowledgeable in the recognition and evaluation of concussions, it is highly recommended that you visit your doctor as soon as possible after showing any signs or symptoms of a concussion, or, even if you don't show signs and symptoms, if you nonetheless believe that you may have suffered a concussion. A speedy and proper diagnosis is paramount in ensuring recovery from an initial concussion and will significantly decrease the chances of suffering secondary or continued concussions from prematurely returning to full activity before the brain has had sufficient time to fully heal.
Because rest is still the most effective way to allow your brain to recover from a concussion, your doctor will likely recommend that you both physically and mentally rest in order to recover from any suspected concussion. This advice includes avoiding all physical exertion, including sports and other vigorous activities, until you show no signs or symptoms of concussion. Necessary rest also includes limiting mental activities that require complex thinking and/or great mental concentration – such as playing video games, watching television, doing homework, reading, texting and/or using your computer, iPad, or smart phone. Your doctor may also recommend a shortened school or work day to avoid fatigue, taking frequent breaks throughout the day, or that you attempt to reduce your overall workload where possible to aid in a faster and full recovery.
If you have additional questions regarding the signs and symptoms of concussion or the appropriate course of treatment you should ask you doctor during your next visit. And, while proper diagnosis of a possible concussion should always be performed in person by a qualified healthcare professional, remember that MeMD is here to assist in your overall healthcare needs and help ensure your family's continued overall health and wellness.