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Concussion

Alternate Names

  • closed head injury
  • postconcussive syndrome
  • Brain structures

Definition

A concussion is the most common form of head injury. Most concussions are caused by a blow to the head or sudden, uncontrolled, rapid movement of the head. A concussion may cause temporary symptoms but not permanent brain damage.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

There are many possible causes for a concussion. Some common causes are bicycle, motorcycle, or automobile crashes, falls, and work-related injuries. Contact sports, especially football, are another common source of concussions. Some other sports that place a person at risk for concussions include:
  • boxing
  • basketball
  • baseball
  • ice hockey
  • skiing
  • skateboarding
  • wrestling
  • almost any other contact sport
Concussions are more common in an individual who has:
  • an altered mental state due to drugs or disease
  • difficulty walking because of arthritis, leg injury, or neuromuscular disease
  • weakness
  • loss of balance or poor coordination from aging or disease

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the injury?

Sports safety guidelines should be followed for children, adolescents, and adults. Helmets and seat belts are especially important in the prevention of head injuries leading to concussions.

Diagnosed

How is the injury recognized?

A concussion can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional with a standard neurological exam and complete history. An EEG, or electroencephalogram, may be ordered to check for abnormalities in the brain waves.
Tests such as a cranial CT scan, X-ray, and cranial MRI may also be used to determine the amount of damage to the brain. Often, all tests will be normal because the injury is not severe enough to detect.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the injury?

A person with a Grade 1 concussion should be checked at the time of the head injury, and then every 5 minutes until the symptoms go away. If the symptoms disappear in 15 minutes or less, the person can return to normal activity, including sports. A person with a Grade 2 concussion should be examined by a healthcare professional and should avoid sports for a week.
When a person loses consciousness for any length of time following a concussion, he or she has a Grade 3 concussion. The individual should be immediately transported with a neck brace to a hospital for treatment.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Most people fully recover from concussions without side effects.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the injury?

A person with a Grade 1 concussion can return to normal activity, including sports, when the symptoms go away. An individual with a Grade 2 concussion should refrain from sports for one week. If the person is still symptom free after one week, he or she may return to sports activities.
A person with a Grade 3 concussion should follow the recommendations of the healthcare professional regarding activity. The person's return to sports will depend on how long he or she was unconscious, and how long it took for the symptoms to go away. An individual with repeated concussions should be carefully evaluated before returning to sports activities.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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