If you've followed professional football in the U.S. recently, you know that concerns about concussions have been big news.
While the long-term effects of concussions are still being studied, you can do your part to protect the brains of your children and loved ones by being aware of the signs of concussion.
A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is caused by a direct blow to the head from a fall or collision or from a blow that causes the head move abruptly back and forth (such as whiplash).
Signs of concussion
The symptoms of concussion can be broken down into 3 categories: physical, mental, and emotional.
- Physical symptoms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with balance
- Blurred vision
- Heightened sensitivity to light or noise
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Mental symptoms
- Memory problems, especially for new information or recent events
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Feeling foggy or sluggish
- Emotional symptoms
- Feelings of sadness
- Feelings of anger
- Generally heightened emotional response
You many expect that loss of consciousness would be the main symptom of a concussion, but experts say that this only occurs in about 10% of concussions.
The symptoms of concussion can occur right away or in the hours, days, or even weeks following a concussion. This is why it's important for people who experience a concussion follow up with their doctor if symptoms persist.
What to do if you suspect concussion
If you suspect someone has suffered a concussion, here are a few immediate steps to take:
- If the concussion occurred during athletic activity, the person should be removed from play right away. Return to play shouldn't happen until the person has been evaluated by a medical professional experienced at evaluating concussions.
- Prevent the person from driving, operating heavy machinery, or doing anything else that may endanger themselves or others.
- Seek immediate emergency help if the person has signs of a blood clot:
- Headache that gets worse or will not go away
- Increasing numbness or weakness
- Increasing lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Inability to recognize people or places
- Pupils in the eyes that are different sizes
- Increasing drowsiness or inability to be awakened
For a complete list, see: Concussion and the Risk of Blood Clot