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.
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
- Balance problems or lack of coordination
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Irritability, sadness or nervousness
- Feeling more emotional
- Personality changes
- Difficulty at work or school
- Changes in sleep patterns
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.
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.