Protect Your Noggin

Learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this dangerous head injury.

Have kids who play football, soccer, or hockey? Then you should know how to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. Millions of sports-related concussions happen every year and your child could be at risk.

Also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, concussions are caused by a blow to the head. An injury to the head or brain should never be taken lightly as serious and possibly long-term side effects are possible.

When it comes to protecting your head and those of your loved ones from concussions, here’s what you should know.

A Blow to the Head

Your brain is protected by surrounding cerebrospinal fluid inside your skull. Despite this layer of protection, a violent jolt or blow to the head, neck, or upper body can cause your brain to hit your skull and cause a concussion. You can also experience a concussion from your head or body being shaken, falling and hitting your head, or being involved a car crash. As you watch football players tackle each other, it becomes obvious why they’re at risk for head injury.

Headache, Confusion, Dizziness

Upon impact, the brain may become bruised, nerve tissue may be stretched and torn, and brain chemicals may be altered. These injuries change the way the brain functions. However, symptoms may be so mild and short-lived you don’t realize you’ve suffered a concussion or they may be severe enough to land you in the emergency room.

Someone who’s had a concussion may experience a headache or pressure inside the head, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, slurred speech, ringing in the ears, and fatigue. In some cases, symptoms may appear hours or days after an injury. Such symptoms may include personality changes, trouble concentrating, irritability, sleep problems, sensitivity to noise or light, depression, or changes in taste and smell.

See Your Doctor

Anytime a concussion is suspected a doctor should be seen. A concussion is considered an emergency when there’s loss of consciousness that lasts longer than 30 seconds, vomiting, a worsening headache, confusion, slurred speech, or changes in behavior.

When examining you, the doctor will perform a neurological exam that evaluates your hearing, balance, coordination, reflexes, vision, and strength. A cognitive test may be done to check your memory and concentration. And your doctor may order imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray to examine the skull and brain.

Rest, Rest, Rest

A severe concussion may require overnight hospitalization for observation. For at least 24 hours, a caregiver should be nearby to check on you and make sure you can waken easily. Then, as long as symptoms of a concussion are still around and while your brain chemicals are getting rebalanced, you should remain as inactive as possible.

Rest is the name of the game for a week or longer. Both physical and mental rest is necessary for your brain to recover from a concussion. This means sitting around without watching television, playing video games, working on the computer, reading, or doing schoolwork. Under the direction of the doctor, activity and thinking can gradually be increased as your brain heals.

Want to get back to life faster than your doctor recommends? Don’t! Resuming normal activities or sports participation too soon puts you at risk for a second concussion, which could cause lasting consequences or even death. Suffering multiple concussions over the course of your life also puts you at risk for lasting health conditions.