As a team physician for various high school, collegiate, elite, and professional sports teams, I work with athletes who suffer concussion injuries. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. Concussions are classified as mild brain injuries, but effects of concussions can be serious and no injury to the head should be taken lightly.
The signs of a concussion can be very subtle and it may not be apparent that you are, in fact, suffering from a concussion. Symptoms can last days, weeks and longer and are typically manifested in the form of headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory loss and confusion.
Once diagnosed with a concussion, your brain will need time to heal. The tricky part is it’s not like a common injury where you can ‘see’ it, like a broken arm or ankle. Just because you can’t see a concussion, doesn’t mean it’s not a serious injury that requires time to recover.
In the immediate days after a concussion diagnosis, your doctor will recommend that you avoid physical exertion including sports and vigorous exercise or activities. You’ll also need to limit activities that involve thinking and concentration such as reading, texting, playing video games, watching TV, or using a computer. Shortened work days will be necessary to give your brain time to heal and recover. Ignoring your symptoms is a critical mistake and could lead to a longer recover time and an increase in symptoms.
Recovery from a concussion can be a slow process and if you are prone to chronic headaches or suffer from anxiety or depression it may take even longer to heal. The most important thing to remember is to listen to what your body is telling you and allow yourself the time to heal. Once you have recovered, take extra precaution to protect yourself from another head injury. People who have more than one concussion are prone to more long-term problems such as additional memory loss, headaches, the ability to concentrate or keep your balance.