A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, caused by either a direct blow to the head or a hit to some other part of the body that causes a whiplash type motion of the neck & head. Imagine the brain as the yolk of an egg, nestled comfortably in its shell and protected by the egg white. When the yolk is moved quickly and violently, it smashes into the rigid shell – the same with the brain inside the skull.
A concussion is not a structural injury to the brain, but rather, it is a functional injury. That is why concussions do not show up on MRI or CT scans. The brain has to be in perfect balance or equilibrium in order to function at its fullest potential. A concussion results in a disequilibrium or shift in metabolic need which then results in impaired brain function, and causes symptoms.
If you experience or witness any of the following signs and symptoms SUDDENLY after sustaining a blow to the head, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room:
- Headache that worsens significantly
- Slurred speech
- Repeated vomiting
- Prolonged loss of consciousness (greater than 30 seconds)
- Significant midline neck pain, associated with any weakness or numbness of arms or legs
- Marked increased in irritability, confusion, or unusual behavior
- Inability to recognize people or places
- Looks drowsy and or cannot be awakened/aroused
A concussion may result in a variety of symptoms, which can be loosely placed in four categories: physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep-related. A patient may likely experience symptoms across more than one category. Even if a patient has sustained previous concussions, he may experience a completely different set of symptoms with a new injury.
An athlete who demonstrates any of the following signs or symptoms following a direct or indirect blow to the head, should be removed from play and should not return to play until evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Physical symptoms include headache, dizziness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, numbness & tingling, and fatigue.
Cognitive symptoms include feeling mentally foggy, feeling slowed down, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty remembering events before or after the injury.
Emotional symptoms consist of irritability, sadness, feeling more emotional than usual, and nervousness.
Sleep-related symptoms are drowsiness, sleeping more or less than usual, and trouble falling asleep.
Concussion is TREATABLE.
For the first couple of days after a new injury, the best care is rest – both physical and cognitive.
Physical rest is staying out of PE class, athletic practices, competitions, fitness activities and avoiding any activities that pose a risk of head injury, until directed by your care team.
Cognitive rest is achieved by eliminating or significantly decreasing time spent on electronic devices (phone, tablet, computer, etc), watching tv, playing video games, studying, or any other activity that stimulates the brain.
Each patient is unique and each injury is unique. Our providers and staff will make specific recommendations at each stage of the recovery process to ensure that your injury resolves completely.
Returning to sports after a concussion is a gradual process. We want to make sure your body and brain are ready for the demands of high levels of activity. In order for our providers to make sound return to play decisions, we ask each concussion patient to complete a RETURN TO PLAY PROGRESSION. Ideally, this is completed under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer. This progression is a gradual increase in activity, broken down into stages. At a certain point in your recovery, you will be instructed to start a return to play progression by your care team.
Each sport places different demands on the body. Click on a sport below to see sport-specific exercises & drills for a variety of sports.
Risk of concussion is inherent in sport, even after getting full clearance from your medical provider. Check out our Concussion Care and Prevention document for ways to stay healthy and decrease your risk of re-injury.