Contributions by Molly Moore and Debbie Struiksma, PT, NCS
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that affects brain function caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Although one concussion is typically not life-threatening, the effects can be serious and last for days, weeks, or even longer. Multiple, however, may result in permanent damage to the brain.
If you've recently suffered a blow to the head, chin, or jaw, you could be at risk for a concussion. Adolescents can be at a higher risk for concussions due to their risks of falling, sports injuries, and other childhood activities, and they can be victims of physical abuse or car accidents. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion to seek proper treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussions
According to the CDC, you can diagnose a concussion based on both noticeable signs and reported symptoms. Signs and symptoms will typically appear shortly after the injury, but they may escalate as time goes on. Those who show or observe one or more signs or symptoms listed may have a concussion or a more serious TBI. Never return to competition, activity, etc., until you are 100% symptom-free.
- Unable to remember events prior to or following a hit or fall.
- Appears dazed/stunned.
- Forgets/is confused about instruction, assignments, games, etc.
- Moves clumsily.
- Answers questions slowly
- Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes.
- Headache/Pressure in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems, dizziness
- Double/blurry vision
- Bothered by light and/or noise.
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, or groggy
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Feeling "not right"
How are Concussions Diagnosed? Who Can Diagnose One?
Noticing the signs and symptoms of concussions is not enough to diagnose and treat them. According to Debbie Struiksma, Clinic Director, Physical Therapist, and Neurologic Clinic Specialist of Complete Balance Solutions – Seal Beach, if someone has experienced a blow to the head from getting hit in the head by an object in a sport, hitting their head on something such as a cabinet, or hitting their head in a car accident or fall, they should be screened by a healthcare professional for a concussion as soon as possible. A person should not try to diagnose and treat themselves with a concussion and should instead seek immediate medical attention.
Healthcare professionals should use a series of screening tools to assess the injury either on the sidelines, at the scene of an accident, in the ED, or the office when an acute hit to the head has occurred. In the elderly especially, it is important to determine if there is any bleeding in the brain, which has a higher incidence if a person is on blood thinners.
If a concussion is suspected, I recommend light exercise, such as daily walks and the continuation of movement and activities of daily living, with pacing. It's also essential to continue a regular sleep pattern and temporarily decrease cognitive and visual load. Initially, decreasing screen time will help dampen visual load. Above all else, it is vitally important to see a healthcare professional that has an understanding of concussion management concussion as soon as possible. There are certain protocols for return to learn and return to sport that healthcare professionals can begin as appropriate.
If you or someone you know is suspected of having a concussion or another form of TBI, make an appointment with Debbie or another one of our Neurologic Clinic Specialists at a Complete Balance Solutions clinic near you. Not in the area? Visit prnpt.com to find a clinic near you!