(Mild Traumatic Brain Injury)
A concussion is an injury to the brain that causes problems with how the brain works. It can affect things like memory, balance, focus, decision making, and coordination.
A concussion is caused by a blow to the head or shaking of the head from things like:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Being struck by something or slamming against something
- Physical violence
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Concussions are more common in men. Things that raise the risk of concussion are:
- Alcohol use
- Playing organized sports
- A prior concussion
A concussion can cause symptoms that may last for days, weeks, or even longer. They may start right away or a few hours or days after the injury. Common physical problems are:
- Ringing in the ears and problems hearing
- Blurred vision
- Balance and coordination problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to sounds and lights
- Problems sleeping
Other problems may be:
- Lack of focus
- Problems paying attention
- Loss of memory
- Slow processing speed
- Slow reaction time
- Problems completing tasks
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis.
Most people will be able to heal at home. People with severe symptoms may be kept in the hospital for monitoring.
The goal of treatment is to let the brain rest so that it can heal. Some rest is recommended for the first 24 to 48 hours, but full rest is not always needed. It may take longer for all symptoms to pass. Recovery may require:
- Time off from sports
- Limiting mentally demanding activities, such as schoolwork and using devices with screens
- Therapy to help with cognitive function
A second brain injury could lead to serious problems. Care will need to be taken to avoid this.
To lower the risk of concussion:
- Use seat belts, shoulder harnesses, and child safety seats when traveling in motor vehicles.
- Having children use safe, age appropriate methods when playing sports.
- Wear a helmet when doing activities such as:
- Playing a contact sport like football, soccer, or hockey
- Riding a bike or motorcycle
- Using skates, scooters, and skateboards
- Catching, batting, or running bases in baseball or softball
- Riding a horse
- Skiing or snowboarding
- Concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/concussion-and-mild-traumatic-brain-injury.
- Lumba-Brown A, Yeates KO, et al. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline on the Diagnosis and Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Among Children. JAMA Pediatr. 2018 Nov 1;172(11):e182853.
- Sports-related concussion information for athletes. Wesleyan University Athletic Injury Care website. Available at: http://athletics.wesleyan.edu/Performance_-_Care/concussions.
- Traumatic brain injury and concussion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html.
- What can I do to help feel better after a mild traumatic brain injury? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/recovery.html.
- Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
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