Concussion: Frequently Asked Questions
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury that usually is caused by a direct blow to the head or face, like a sports injury or bad fall from a bike.
What are the common signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Young athletes with a suspected concussion may have a combination of any of the following symptoms, which often are split into three categories:
- Confusion or feeling mentally foggy.
- Seeing stars or flashing lights.
- Poor concentration and attention.
- Memory loss.
- Vacant or glassy-eyed stare.
- Double or blurry vision.
- Poor balance and coordination.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Rambling speech.
- Ringing in ears.
- Inappropriate play on the field (running the wrong way).
- Mood swings.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Irritability, changes in personality, nervousness or sadness.
- Impaired academic performance.
Is it true that you have to be knocked out to have a concussion?
No. An athlete can still have a concussion even if he or she was not knocked out. Actually, most concussions do not involve loss of consciousness. In addition, an athlete can have a normal CT scan and still have a concussion.
How long do concussion symptoms last?
Based on how serious the concussion is, symptoms may last anywhere from 1 day to several months. Most young athletes will have symptoms for about 3 weeks or less.
What is the usual treatment for a young athlete with a concussion?
The best thing a young athlete can do after a concussion is rest, because that allows the brain to heal. It is important that athletes recognize their injury and immediately stop activity. Rest also includes "resting the brain," which means a break from schoolwork and computer time. This is especially important for young athletes because their brains still are developing.
When a young athlete is injured with a concussion, specialists evaluate his or her injuries and offer guidance and education to make sure it's safe to return to regular activities like school, driving, physical activity or sports. Each patient has an individualized treatment plan and receives help to manage symptoms and function at school.
Specialists regularly recheck each patient's condition to make sure he or she is improving. Some patients may need to see other specialists for further brain-function tests. Our sports medicine team will help coordinate appointments.
Treatment plans may include an MRI, medication and physical or occupational therapy. Generally, when a patient no longer has symptoms and is back to school full time, he or she will begin a therapy program to return to regular activities and athletics.