What is a Concussion

A concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBD), is a brain injury that occurs when force is transmitted to the brain, causing it to move quickly within the skull.

Most common concussion symptoms:

Physical

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Dizziness or difficulty with balance
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, or lots of sensory stimulation (Ex, having difficulty in a crowded room)

Mental

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems remembering
  • Feeling foggy or slowed down

Emotional

  • A strong emotional reaction to having been injured
  • Feeling sad or down
  • Decreased interest in hobbies
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • A desire to be isolated from other people or concern about participating in community activities

Sleep

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Drowsiness

What to do if you think someone sustained a concussion

If they experience one or more of the above symptoms after sustaining a hit to the head or body, they may have a concussion. They should be evaluated by a licensed health professional (physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, athletic trainer).

Recovering from Concussion

Several factors influence recovery. Generally, symptoms in adults may resolve within 14 days. For children, symptoms may take up to 30 days to resolve.

Tips for Parents & Athletes/Kids

Parent/Guardians

Parents/guardians should continue to monitor their child as symptoms may be perceived by their child days after the injury.

Questions to ask your healthcare provider after concussion:

  1. What is a concussion?
  2. What do you recommend for treatment?
  3. How long will the symptoms last?
  4. What can I do to help manage the symptoms at home? Are there any risks with taking over-the-counter pain medications (Tylenol, Advil, etc.) after a concussion?
  5. What should I do if the symptoms get worse over the next few days?
  6. Is it ok to use a phone, watch TV, use a computer, or other electronic devices?
  7. Do we follow up with you or how do we know when we can return to normal activities such as school and sport?
  8. How soon can they go back to school? Can they go back full time?
  9. Will they need academic accommodations when they return to school? Which do you recommend?
  10. Can they still participate in gym/physical education class?
  11. When will they be cleared to participate in sports?
  12. Should we see a specialist? What kind of specialist? Will insurance cover these types of visits?
  13. Do you have any printed materials regarding concussion management that I can take home with me or to share with the school/coach?
  14. Are there any long term problems that could happen because of this concussion?

Athletes/kids

Athletes/kids should be transparent about their concussion and its residual effects. Athletes/kids must communicate this to their parents/guardians if symptoms worsen.

Athletes/kids Questions:

  1. What is a concussion?
  2. Are there any treatments you can recommend?
  3. How long will I have symptoms for? Can I use over-the-counter pain medications (Tylenol, Advil, etc.) to treat my concussion symptoms?
  4. What should I do if my symptoms get worse over the next few days?
  5. Can I still use my phone, watch TV, use a computer or  any other electronic devices?
  6. When can I go back to school? 
  7. What should I tell my teacher about my concussion? 
  8. Can I still participate in gym class/physical education class?
  9. What should I tell my coach about my concussion?
  10. Is it safe for me to return to sports after having a concussion?
  11.  When can I be cleared to return to sports?
  12. Do you have any printed materials about my concussion that I can take home with me or to share with my school/coach?
  13. Are there any long term problems that could happen because of this concussion?

What to do if you think you have sustained a concussion during sport?

If you have taken a blow to the head, remove yourself from play immediately and follow up with the coach, trainer, or medical professional. You should sit out of play the day of the injury and not return to play until a licensed medical professional says you are symptom-free and safe to return.

Children or teens who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing—have a greater chance of having a repeat concussion, worsening of a current concussion, or another injury.

For more information about concussions in athletes, please visit the Concussion in Athletes page of uofmhealth.org.

You can also visit the NeuroSport Clinic page to get more information on athletic concussion treatment or to make an appointment.

Returning to Play

A previously concussed athlete should only return to sports with the approval of a licensed health professional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend a five-step return to play progression that should be supervised by a healthcare professional.

Returning to Learn

Currently, there is a lack of guidance on allowing recently concussed athletes to return to normal academic performance. That said, recently concussed individuals should abstain from activities that exacerbate concussion symptomatology.

Tips For Athletic Trainers, Coaches, & School Staff

Is there any safety equipment that will reduce the risk of sustaining a concussion?

Wearing a helmet is imperative to help reduce the risk of a serious brain injury or skull fracture. However, helmets are not designed to prevent concussions. Researchers and helmet manufacturers are constantly improving helmets to make them as protective as possible, but there is no “concussion-proof” helmet.

What to do if you think an athlete has sustained a concussion?

If you think an athlete has a concussion, remove the athlete from play immediately. The athlete should sit out of play the day of the injury and should not return to play until a licensed medical professional says they are symptom-free and safe to return.

Children or teens who return to play too soon—while the brain is still healing—have a greater chance of having a repeat concussion, worsening of a current concussion, or another injury.

For more information about concussions in athletes, please visit the Concussion in Athletes page of uofmhealth.org.

You can also visit the NeuroSport Clinic page to get more information on athletic concussion treatment or to make an appointment.