Concussion Care

A concussion is an injury to the brain that happens after a blow to the head or violent shaking. In some cases, symptoms of head injury may not appear for several hours or even days after the event. A person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. It is important to seek care when you suspect a concussion, because repeated concussions can lead to neurological issues later in life.

When a person has a concussion, symptoms depend on which area(s) of the brain is injured. That's why there can be a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of a concussion

  • Mental fogginess and confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble remembering or concentrating
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headache
  • Balance problems or lack of coordination
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Irritability, sadness or nervousness
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Personality changes
  • Difficulty at work or school
  • Changes in sleep patterns

When to go to the hospital

Not everyone with a concussion needs to be taken to the emergency room, but they should still be seen by a doctor.

However, if they show any of the following symptoms, they should be taken to the emergency room immediately:

  • Passing out or not responding to you
  • Irregular heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, etc.
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Headache that gets worse
  • Seizures
  • Confusion or irritability that gets worse
  • If you think they may have a spine injury, skull fracture or bleeding

Sports concussions

Concussions can happen to any athlete in any sport. Recognizing a concussion and seeking proper medical care is important for all athletes—but especially for younger athletes because it typically takes them longer to heal than adults. Our Sports Medicine experts focus on concussion prevention, diagnosis and treatment for athletes.

Concussion evaluation
Concussions can be challenging to assess because of the individual nature of symptoms and recovery for each athlete. That's why Gundersen uses ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). ImPACT is a computerized evaluation program that measures brain function such as:

  • Verbal and visual memory
  • Processing speed
  • Reaction time

It's recommended athletes take a baseline test in the preseason. If a concussion is suspected, the baseline test can be used to see if any brain function has changed. This data can also be used to track recovery and ensure the athlete is safe to return to activity.

Even if someone has not had a baseline test, ImPACT may provide valuable treatment and recovery information after a concussion.

Treatment
In most cases, the primary treatment for concussion is rest, both physical and mental. Athletes should never continue to play if a concussion is suspected. Returning to strenuous activity too soon can slow the recovery process, increase the chances of re-injury and risk permanent disability or death.

When cared for properly, most simple concussions usually resolve within two to three weeks. Some can take longer to heal especially someone who has had a previous concussion or delayed treatment.

Non-sports concussions

Concussions are a mild form of traumatic brain injury. They can occur during activities of daily living. Many people who have suffered a concussion do not seek care. A call to one of our specialists can get you the tools you need to recover properly from a concussion.

How a non-sports concussion may occur

  • Traffic or work-related accidents
  • Falls
  • Acts of violence
  • An incident that involves impact to—or violent shaking of—the head

Evaluation

If you suspect a concussion, our experts will gather information about the severity of your injury and likely perform a thorough neurological and cognitive exam. They will likely check your:

  • Reflexes
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Vision
  • Strength
  • Hearing
  • Memory
  • Ability to concentrate

Your doctor may order imaging tests to be conducted to make sure your brain is not severely injured. Concussion history and severity will be considered during your evaluation.

Treatment
There is no better way for your brain to recover from a concussion than rest. Returning to rigorous activity too soon can slow the recovery process—and could lead to serious health problems. It is recommended that you avoid any physical exertion until you have no concussion symptoms.

Your doctor will tell you what medicines are safe to use for pain relief. You should only take those drugs that are approved for use.

Post-concussion care

Post-concussion syndrome is a condition that is typically associated with a head injury. The head injury may be categorized as a concussion or a mild traumatic brain injury. In general terms, post-concussion syndrome is a medical problem that persists for a period of time after a head injury has occurred. This period of time can range from weeks to months.

Post-concussion symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration and memory
  • Noise and light sensitivity

Headaches that occur after a concussion can vary and may feel like tension-type headaches or migraines. Most, however, are tension-type headaches, which may be associated with a neck injury that happened at the same time as the head injury. In some cases, people experience behavior or emotional changes after a mild traumatic brain injury.

If you think you or your child may be experiencing symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, schedule an appointment with one of our neurology specialists today. We will customize post-concussion care and determine when it’s safe to return to school, work and other activities.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

Share Your Story