A concussion is described as a brain injury that leads to the impairment of the normal brain functioning as a result of a forceful impact or blow to the head. In simple terms, a concussion is any injury involving the brain tissues. Depending on the force of the injury, the concussion can have varying types and duration of the symptoms.
The brain is a soft structure enclosed within the sturdy, hard construction of the skull. Once the head is directly struck by an object, there is the risk that the brain is damaged since the force is absorbed by the brain tissue. If the brain is damaged, the normal pathway of signals that transmits messages to and from the brain is disrupted.
When a concussion occurs, the brain is damaged and the individual requires immediate assessment by a doctor.
Indications of a concussion
There are a number of indications of a concussion. The following are the usual signs and symptoms.
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Visual disturbance
- Slurred speech
Diagnostic tests used
It is still unclear when imaging of the head is truly required after sustaining a concussion, but there are a number of guidelines that are useful. Imaging tests are considered if there is loss of consciousness, possibility of a skull fracture or evidence of a focal neurologic deficit.
In case an individual sustained a head injury that is followed by a “lucid interval” which is a period of normal functioning followed by loss of consciousness or worsening neurologic function, diagnostic imaging is usually required. In addition, if the symptoms continue to worsen, diagnostic imaging is considered.
An individual should not be left alone after sustaining a concussion. He/she should be assessed by healthcare professionals for a time span of 12-24 hours. If this cannot be done in a safe manner, hospitalization can be considered.
When to resume sports
An individual who sustains a concussion must not return to any physical activity on the day of the injury. In the previous years, it was recommended that if the individual recovered quickly, he/she can return to activity on the day of injury. Today, this is no longer accepted. Those who sustain a concussion must stay away from any activity.
Another aspect in concussion management is that while the individual is not experiencing any symptoms, he/she should allow the brain to rest. This means that the individual must not only avoid physical activity, but also those that require concentration. This includes avoiding academic activities, reading, watching TV or other activities that require concentration.
Individuals who sustain a concussion should not resume any physical activity until assessed by a doctor. The individual should not resume any activity or sport until all the symptoms have completely resolved. Even if only mild symptoms are experienced, the individual should not resume any sport. The moment all symptoms have resolved, he/she can gradually resume physical activity under close supervision.