A concussion is a serious injury that alters the way the brain functions and can result in brain damage if left untreated. This injury is common among athletes who participate in contact sports and can occur when they collide with another athlete, a ball, or the ground.
It’s important to be educated about concussions so you can determine if you or someone else is dealing with this injury and take the appropriate steps to help them recover. So keep reading to learn about symptoms of a concussion as well as the diagnosis and treatment.
It can be difficult for student-athlete health providers and physicians to diagnose a concussion. Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness, and symptoms typically start to develop during the first 24 to 48 hours after a blow to the head. It’s important not to leave an athlete alone after they suffer a head injury. Look for thefollowing symptoms to determine whether the athlete may have a concussion:
- Headache that gets progressively worse
- Loss of consciousness
- Double or fuzzy vision
- Balance problems
- Slow reaction time
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Feeling sluggish, foggy, or groggy
- Feeling emotional
- Sleep disturbances
- Pupils that are enlarged or different in size
No single test can determine whether an athlete has a concussion, but there are several tests that can be performed to ensure brain activity is normal. These tests include the following:
- Neurological exam: If the athlete displays concussion symptoms, the doctor will perform a neurological examination, which includes checking the athlete’s vision, hearing, strength and sensation, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
- Cognitive testing: Doctors also typically perform cognitive testing to evaluate the athlete’s cognition, memory, concentration, and ability to recall information.
- Imaging tests: While brain imaging tests can’t detect a concussion, the doctor may order them to determine the severity of the injury and the possibility of any dangerous bleeding or swelling in the skull.
- A CT scan is a series of X-rays that creates cross-sectional images of the skull and brain.
- An MRI may be conducted to view bleeding or complications that could occur after a concussion. This test uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain.
Rest is the only specific treatment for a concussion. Because the brain has suffered trauma, it’s important to minimize brain activity as much as possible. This means eliminating activities that stimulate the brain and could further aggravate the concussion. Refrain from physical activity as well as reading or watching television.
Dealing with a concussion can be frightening, but if you take the time to relax after the injury and avoid activity, you’ll feel better within a few days. Always be sure to wear the appropriate protective gear during sporting events to decrease the risk of a concussion.
To learn more information about staying healthy as an athlete, download our eBookThe Athlete’s Guide to Peak Performance.