A concussion is a common type of brain injury most often caused by a direct blow to the head or sudden head movement that causes temporary brain malfunction. When the head is hit unexpectedly, the brain can move and hit the skull, affecting memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and coordination. A concussion may also be caused by a sports related injury, a motor vehicle accident or from being violently shaken. Most concussions are considered mild injuries, and people usually fully recover from this condition.
Symptoms of Concussion
Patients with a concussion may experience symptoms that last for days or even weeks that may include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Sensitivity to light
Some people may not even be aware that they have a concussion, or may not develop symptoms until several hours or days after the injury. A concussion may lead to bleeding in the brain, which can be a serious and fatal condition. It is extremely important to seek medical attention if a concussion is suspected after an injury.
Diagnosis of a Concussion
A concussion is diagnosed through a physical examination and review of all symptoms. A neurological evaluation is performed to check vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. Cognitive testing may also be performed to evaluate memory and concentration. Additional diagnostic tests of brain function may include the following imaging tests:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
After a concussion, doctors may be concerned with the severity of the condition and if any internal bleeding or swelling has occurred.
Treatment of a Concussion
The most common treatment for a concussion is rest. Patients may be advised to refrain from sports or physical activity for one to two weeks after the concussion. The exact amount of time is determined by the physician. Headaches related to a concussion may be treated with acetaminophen. It is important that patients have fully recovered before resuming sports and other physical activity, as they are at a higher risk of developing a second concussion.
The risk of a concussion may be reduced by practicing safety at all times, including wearing a seat belt in the car, wearing a helmet during certain activities, and using appropriate protective gear when participating in sports.