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Concussion: More than a bump on the head

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A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head. A concussion may cause you to become temporarily confused or disoriented, have memory loss (amnesia), or become unconscious. Concussions are the most common head injuries in sports.

Symptoms

If you have had a concussion, you may have any of the following symptoms: 

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss (amnesia)
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Loss of balance

These symptoms, called post-concussive syndrome, can last for several days or weeks after the injury.

How is a concussion diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and find out what happened. Your evaluation includes a neurologic examination, testing your strength, balance, reflexes, and memory. Additional tests may be ordered such as an X-ray called a computed tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resource image (MRI) to make sure there is no damage to your brain, or specialized brain function tests and possibly spinal X-rays.

What treatments are available for concussions?

The treatment for a concussion is rest. Headache may be treated with a pain reliever. Nausea may be treated with a medication. If you have a concussion, you need to be watched by a friend of relative for 8 to 12 hours. Your provider may want you to be awakened and checked every 2 to 4 hours. If you experience any of the following, you should proceed to the emergency room.

Prevention

In collision and contact sports, it is important to wear appropriate headgear and mouth pieces that are fitted properly. In sports such as football, it is important to use proper blocking and tackling techniques and not to use your head for initial contact. In sports such as bicycling or rollerblading, it is important to wear a helmet.

Prior to returning to your activities, you should seek approval from your medical provider. Concussions can be severe. Receiving a second blow to the head before the first injury is fully healed can be fatal, even if the second injury seems minor.


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