Is It Concussion, Or Something Worse?
Monday, September 10, 2012 • 12:20pm
Every year, millions of people sustain a head injury. Most of these injuries are minor because the skull provides the brain with considerable protection. More than half a million head injuries a year, however, are severe enough to require hospitalization.
“Any injury to the head that causes a brief loss of consciousness, confusion, or dizziness can be considered a concussion, which is the most common type of traumatic brain injury,” says Jeffrey Rosenberg, M.D., sports medicine physician at Summit Medical Group.
What to Look For
Some of the immediate signs of a concussion include:
- Blank stare
- Responding slowly to questions
- Confusion that does not resolve quickly
- Stumbling when walking
- Ringing in the ears
- Brief loss of consciousness
People who have had a concussion also may have a headache, dizziness, vomiting or lack of awareness of their surroundings for hours after the head injury. Days or weeks later, other problems may pop up, such as light-headedness, poor concentration, blurred vision, frequent crying in children, fatigue, and problems sleeping or with memory.
If the injured person can’t explain what happened, look for clues and ask witnesses. In any serious head trauma, always assume the spinal cord is also injured; the victim should not be moved in any way and 911 should be contacted immediately.
What to Do
A doctor or urgent care facility should be contacted immediately if the person has lost consciousness for any amount of time or if any other symptoms get worse or start up days or weeks later. Otherwise, rest is the only way to care for a mild concussion. Children should not rush back into activities until all symptoms have cleared. Any subsequent concussion could lead to brain damage or even death.
“Signs of a more serious head injury— requiring emergency medical treatment— include convulsions, fracture in the skull or face, and inability to hear, see, taste or smell,” says Lois O’Sullivan, R.N., of the Urgent Care Center at Summit Medical Group.
Taking safety precautions is a good way to avoid head injuries. Helmets offer great protection, and mouth guards can help lessen injury to the brain if an athlete is hit in the jaw or chin. And if there are soccer players in the family, make sure they learn the right way to “head” the soccer ball.
Meet Dr. Rosenberg at his lecture, “Tackling Sports Concussions Head On,” 3:00 p.m. Sunday, September 30, at Summit Medical Group’s Live Well Sports and Health Festival. Dr. Rosenberg is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Family Practice, and Society of Teachers in Family Medicine. He is the author of book chapters that are published in the most recent edition of 5-minute Sports Medicine Consult.
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