Play it Safe: Know the Signs of a Concussion

With spring sports ramping up, it seems like a good time to learn about the seriousness of a concussion as well as its symptoms. What is a concussion? A concussion is a result of a serious blow to a person’s head or neck. The blow causes the brain to move around inside the skull, and sometimes the brain can even bang against the skull itself. This movement can lead to an altered state of mental awareness, which can be prolonged or temporary. Many people assume that a loss of consciousness is common when a concussion occurs. However, losing consciousness only happens in about 10% of concussion cases. Concussions can be coupled with many subtle symptoms that should not be overlooked.

While a loss of consciousness is a very serious sign of a concussion, there are other physical symptoms that should also warrant alarm. If a person has a severe headache, nausea, or vomiting, then he or she should be taken to see a professional. Other common physical side effects of a concussion are blurred vision, numbness, stiff neck, and dizziness. A person may have difficulty walking or speaking, or with overall balance and coordination. Any combination of these symptoms suggests that the person needs to seek medical attention immediately.

When a person has suffered a concussion, sleep patterns can change. Excessive drowsiness may be a sign that the person needs to see a doctor. If someone is requiring more sleep than usual, it can also be symptomatic of a concussion. Fatigue, whether moderate or severe, could also be an indication that a concussion has occurred.

Another set of symptoms deals with thought processes. Momentary confusion or amnesia often happens immediately after a person sustains a concussion. If you suspect someone might have a concussion, then ask a few simple questions such as what day it is or request a familiar phone number. If the person gives delayed responses or has difficulty recalling simple information, then he or she needs to see a professional who can assess the severity of the concussion. The person may find that general events or events surrounding the injury may seem “foggy.” This can be particularly worrisome if the confusion worsens. Often times, people with concussions demonstrate thought process symptoms over a period of time, as opposed to immediately after the initial impact. For instance, they may have trouble concentrating at work or in school. Any sign of problems with a person’s thought processes should be taken seriously and addressed by a health professional.

The most important thing to remember is to never ignore the subtle symptoms of a concussion. Concussions often occur in athletes who are inclined to ignore the warning signs their bodies are giving them and jump back in the game. Most concussions do not require specific treatment; however consulting a doctor is always advisable when a head injury occurs. Generally, people with concussions need rest, observation, and adequate time to heal. The worst thing a person can do is ignore the warning signs and continue an activity. SIS (Second Impact Syndrome) occurs when a second brain injury happens before the first one has had time to heal. This can lead to severe and sometimes permanent brain damage.

So, let’s be sure to play it safe and listen to our bodies when it is telling us to take it easy! We have to use our heads in order to protect them!

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