A concussion is a brain injury that affects how your brain works. It can result from any bump, blow, or jolt to the head. However, it doesn’t always involve a hit on the head. A jolt or blow to the lower body that causes the brain to move quickly back and forth can also cause a concussion. This happens when your brain gets bounced around in your skull, creating chemical changes that sometimes stretch and damage brain cells. Even a mild bump or blow to the head or body can be serious. Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Actually, only 10% of sports-related concussions involve a loss of consciousness.
Concussion symptoms will differ with each person and injury. Symptoms are usually immediate, but may not be noticeable for hours or even days following the injury. Some people with a concussion say that something just “isn’t right.” It may be hard to pinpoint, but they just don’t feel “right.”
Concussion symptoms reported by the injured person:
Headache or “pressure” in head
Nausea and/or vomiting
Balance problems or dizziness
Sensitivity to light or noise
Blurred or double vision
Drowsiness or trouble sleeping
Confusion; difficulty focusing, concentrating, or remembering
Over-emotional (irritable, sad, nervous)
Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, slowed down
Numbness or tingling
Concussion symptoms that may be noticed by coach, friend, teammate, and/or professor:
Appears dazed or stunned
Confused about events, game, position, score, opponent
Answers questions slowly or repeats questions
Unable to recall events prior to or after the injury
Loses consciousness (even briefly)
Behavior, mood, or personality changes
Forgets class schedule or assignments
All concussions are serious. Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help aid recovery and prevent further injury or even death. Athletes who have had a prior concussion have an increased risk for another. Teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults because the brain is still developing into the early 20’s.
What to do if you suspect a concussion
If you think you have a concussion, you should not return to play on the day of the injury. If you experience one or more of the signs and symptoms of a concussion, you should see a health care professional for an evaluation. You can return to play once cleared by a health care professional.
Rest is key. Exercising or activities that involve a lot of concentration, such as studying, computer work, and playing video games, may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or worsen. Returning to sports and school is a gradual process that should be carefully managed by a health care provider. Recovery can be quick for some athletes, while others will have symptoms lasting weeks, or even months. If an athlete has a concussion, the brain needs time to heal. While the brain is healing, the athlete is much more likely to have another concussion. Repeat concussions can increase the time it takes to recover and can result in brain swelling or permanent damage to the brain. Repeated concussions can also be fatal.
When in Doubt, Sit it Out
Don’t hide it. Report it. Get checked out. Trying to “tough it out” and keep playing often makes symptoms worse. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you or your teammate into continuing to play if a concussion is suspected. Some athletes may try to hide the symptoms because they want to play. Speak up for you and your teammates!
For more information, please call Student Health Services at 504.865.3326 or stop by our clinic located in the lower level of the Danna Student Center, just below the Orleans Room.