A concussion is a brain injury that impacts the normal function of the brain. Concussions are typically caused by hitting the head or by any other strong impact to the head. They can also result from a strong hit of the body that causes jolting of the head. They can occur in individuals of all ages and typically resolve within two to three weeks.

Concussions result from damage to nerves and blood vessels that lead to chemical changes in the brain. Because of these chemical changes, normal brain function is altered. Concussions do not normally cause permanent brain damage or life-threatening issues, but numerous concussions throughout one’s life can potentially cause permanent effects on the brain.

Signs & Symptoms

Perhaps the most obvious symptom of a concussion is a headache. Other concussion symptoms that may be experienced by one include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Ringing of the ears
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes (irritability, nervousness, anxiousness, depression)
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of attentiveness
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

In the occurrence of a concussion, someone witnessing one’s symptoms of a concussion may report:

  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed responsiveness

It is important to be able to recognize symptoms in children as well, for oftentimes, they can differ. Head trauma is heightened in young children due to their increased physical activity, but can often be difficult to recognize. Because young children are not capable of expressing and describing how they feel, it is up to adults to recognize these symptoms. Symptoms in children include but are not limited to:

  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Increased crying
  • Change in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys
  • Increased exhaustion

Concussion Causes

When analyzing concussion causes, it is important to have an understanding of the brain anatomy. Soft brain tissue is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid and the skull, acting as a protective covering. When the brain moves or bounces inside the skull, collision occurs, thus damaging nerves, blood vessels, and cells. As a result of this collision, chemical changes occur within the brain.

Some of the most common causes of concussions are heavy falls, car collisions, and athletic/sports injuries. In these events, concussions often result from rapid movement of the head, such as jolts, blasts, or whiplash.

Risk Factors

There are a number of concussion risk factors that can increase one’s chances of being concussed. These factors include but are not limited to: falling (specifically in younger years or older years), being involved in an athletic activity or sport, participating in physical activity without proper safety equipment, motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, physical abuse, and previous concussions.

How are Concussions Diagnosed?

Typically, concussions are diagnosed by the doctor’s practice of asking questions to get to the bottom of the injury and the symptoms being felt by the patient. For precise and accurate diagnosis, the patient must be honest with their answers and share with the doctor any unusual experiences and sensations.

Imaging techniques using MRI and CT scans should not be performed frequently in the diagnosis. Because they do not show specific changes and can expose individuals to radiation that is not needed in this diagnosis, these tests should be avoided.

Deciding When to See a Doctor

It is important to see a doctor within one or two days if you or your child experience head trauma or injury. Even if it feels as though care is not needed, a precautionary medical examination is important.

It is also important to see a doctor if any common signs and symptoms are felt as well as if you are experiencing any abnormal functions following the head injury.

Concussion Treatment Options

Concussion treatment options have developed over the years. Throughout history, the most trusted and practiced form was rest. Most patients would be advised to get plenty of mental and physical rest to allow for the injury to heal. Additionally, doctors would advise patients to avoid bright lights in the effort of alleviating head and vision pain.

In more recent years, doctors have the ability to target specific symptoms, thus creating a wider range of treatment options. Through the examination of symptoms, physical therapy can be used depending on the situation. Because symptoms may vary among patients, the form of therapy used to treat the concussion is specific to each and every patient. To treat specific symptoms, physical therapy is effective as a crucial part of the recovery process. It allows for patients to remain physically active while ensuring that they are maintaining safety and following physical movement restrictions under the supervision of a therapist. Physical therapy works to improve and resolve symptoms, which in the end, will contribute to the overcoming of the concussion injury.

In the later timeline of concussion treatment, a medical exam will be administered in order to ensure that the patient is permitted to return to normal activities. The doctor will also instruct the patient on whether or not they are to return to activities that can cause potential contact to the head.

The process of concussion treatment can become difficult if complications arise. Complications of concussions include but are not limited to:

  • Post-traumatic headaches
  • Post-traumatic vertigo
  • Post-concussive symptoms
  • Second Impact Syndrome

The listed complications impose the struggle of persisting symptoms upon patients, thus calling for additional treatment, longer treatment, and/or the altering of the treatment form.

Concussion Prevention

There are a number of concussion prevention strategies that can be used in daily activities to ensure the health and safety of individuals. Depending on the activity, prevention strategies vary.

In physical activities, such as athletics and exercise, it is important to always use the appropriate protective gear. For example, it is important to wear a fitting helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle, skating, participating in contact sports, or in any other activity that puts one at risk of contact to the head. Proper protective gear must be worn in baseball, softball, cycling, football, hockey, horseback riding, recreational vehicle powering, skating, scootering, skiing, wrestling, soccer, pole vaulting, material arts, and much more.

In daily life activities, much can be done to prevent head injuries as well. For example, the use of handrails on stairs lowers the risk of falling. The existence of bars in restrooms protect individuals from injury as well as non-slip equipment for potentially wet and slippery grounds.

In vehicles, it is important to always wear a seatbelt for protection in the occurrence of a collision. Children must always be secured in safety seats, depending on their age. It is also important to be mindful of children’s access to open windows while inside the moving vehicle.

One of the most universal prevention strategies is the strengthening of neck muscles. In doing so, the shock and impact of the head jolt is more likely to be absorbed, thus lessening one’s risk of a concussion in the event of head contact.

If you suspect that you have signs or symptoms of a concussion, please see your doctor for further evaluation and to learn more about concussion treatment options in Nassau County. For more information, contact Hicksville Physical Therapy today.

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