Fall is upon us and that also means that fall sports season is in full swing! With contact sports such as football and soccer occurring in fall, I begin to see more patients in my office with concussions. A concussion occurs when there is a blow to the head or violent shaking and can result in unconsciousness but not always. There are a lot of people that may not even realize they have a concussion if they didn’t lose consciousness.
When the head experiences a sudden, forceful impact, the brain essentially bangs into the walls of the skull creating a mild brain injury. Symptoms of a concussion include: headache, confusion, loss of memory (amnesia), ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, delayed responses and fatigue. Symptoms may last for several days or weeks and can have longer lasting effects.
With more awareness for concussions and the long term effects of them, there have been guidelines established for returning to sport, school or work. For some people, symptoms of the concussion seem to linger and this has been termed “post-concussive syndrome.” Most people with post-concussion syndrome have symptoms lasting from 1 week to 3 months but it could potentially last up to a year. The most common symptoms for post-concussion syndrome are headaches, dizziness, fatigue, noise and light sensitivity, behavioral changes such as irritability or anxiety.
So what should you do if you get a concussion? The first thing is to seek medical advice. Symptoms should be monitored over the course of 24-48 hours to make sure they do not worsen or warrant more critical intervention. The next thing is to rest and avoid all activity and challenging cognitive tasks such as watching TV, reading, or school/work tasks. The brain needs time to heal so it is imperative to limit exertion, physical and cognitive. If the concussion occurred during a sporting event, it is best to not play the remainder of the game. Occasionally a concussion is not diagnosed till after the game but if there is any doubt, it is best to error on the safe side.
If symptoms continue to persist longer than a week, you may benefit from Physical Therapy. Dizziness and balance impairments are common after concussion and can be addressed with Physical Therapy. They are able to perform vestibular exercises to resolve the dizziness and balance exercises for improved steadiness. Headaches can also be caused by a potential neck injury that could have occurred at the same time as the concussion. Resolving the neck injury will help alleviated the headaches. In addition, a qualified Physical Therapist can help you safely return to activity without exacerbating any symptoms of the concussion.
Hopefully these tips are useful for you and please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have either in the comments section below or at FitandTonedWI@gmail.com. Wishing everyone a safe fall sport season and…Go Packers!
Move Forward Physical Therapist’s Guide to Concussions. 2011. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/symptomsconditionsdetail.aspx?cid=4f2ebb00-f1c0-4691-b2ab-742df8dffb99#.VhRPBf9zOP8