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This is Your Brain on Concussion

Every 15 seconds someone experiences a traumatic brain injury. A concussion is considered a mild traumatic brain injury. This injury can happen to any person of any age and activity level.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and Saint Luke’s wants to help you understand what a concussion is and how to recognize it.

Did you know you don’t need to hit your head to get a concussion? You might fall and catch yourself with your hands or experience whiplash and end up with a concussion. Any bump, hit, jolt, or blunt force to the body can cause the brain to move rapidly, slamming it against the skull or stretching fiber tracts at its base. That is the concussion.

So how do you know if you have a concussion? Look for these signs:

1. You feel dazed or are unsure of where you are
2. You can’t function normally, even if just for a short time
3. You can’t remember recent events
4. You have a headache or feel dizzy
5. Your vision might be blurry
6. You feel nauseated, or you may even vomit
7. You lose consciousness, however briefly

Even one of these signs could mean you’ve experienced a brain injury. If you suspect concussion, call your provider. If you lose consciousness, seek medical care as soon as possible. The more intense the symptoms are or the longer they last, the worse your concussion could be.

Post-concussion symptoms can include fatigue, persistent dizziness, headache, cognitive slowing, sleep disruption, and mood changes. Some people regain normal function quickly. Others might feel slightly off for hours, days, or even weeks. Recovery takes time. Your provider can prescribe medications to help you manage your symptoms.

We often recommend two to three days of mental and physical rest after a significant concussion injury and gradually increasing activity as tolerated. We recommend athletes return to play only after they’ve gone one week without any post-concussion symptoms and are back to normal activity levels.

Until you recover completely from a concussion, you’re vulnerable to having another. We call this second injury syndrome and it can cause significant damage and swelling of the brain. This can be fatal in some instances.

We recommend student athletes have concussion baseline tests to help coaches and medical providers properly assess cognitive function whenever concussion is suspected. If you play sports, make sure your helmet is properly fitted. And wear a bike helmet whenever cycling, skateboarding, or roller skating. Your brain is irreplaceable, so protect it.