Concussion Symptoms and Treatment

When it comes to the prevention and treatment of concussions, remember to use your head and act with caution

Credit: jeremkin

Concussion symptoms vary, and oftentimes go untreated

Ignore concussion symptoms at your own risk – take this dangerous brain injury seriously

Just about everyone has experienced at least one hard knock on the noggin – perhaps an unexpected fall off your bike during the pre-helmet days that left you seeing stars.

In years gone by, a mishap like this was largely ignored, but research has definitively shown that there’s no such thing as an insignificant bump to the head. Any blow to the head must been taken seriously, and especially any impact that leads to symptoms of concussion – also known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Concussions: The Traumatic Brain Injury

The brain floats in cerebrospinal fluid inside the hard bone casing of the skull. When your head hits a hard object or is hit by an object, the force causes your brain to bounce off the skull, shaking, irritating and even potentially injuring its structure and interfering with brain function. This is called concussion.

Interestingly, it’s been found that you don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Many people who experience a concussion don’t even know it.

Concussion Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of concussion can be quite varied. These include headache (or pressure in the head), confusion, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech, loss of consciousness and even seizures. Additional symptoms can emerge over the ensuing hours or days and can include problems with concentration or memory, personality changes, sensitivity to light or noise, changes in taste or smell, and sleep disturbances. Very young children and most adults may display behavioural changes, like listlessness, irritability, changes in eating or sleeping habits and loss of balance.

Anyone displaying symptoms of concussion (especially children) should be seen by a doctor. All cases should have some form of neurological examination. Contrary to popular belief, a cranial CT scan is almost never indicated. In most cases rest and refraining from all activity for a period of time, together with a pain reliever to treat the headache is all that’s needed.

Preventing Multiple Concussions

While even one concussion is too many, repeated concussions, such as those sustained by professional athletes, can lead people to experience higher-than-normal rates of memory loss, behaviour changes (including lack of impulse control), depression and even early-onset dementia.

This is particularly relevant for anyone who leads an active lifestyle or whose children are active or play contact sports. To help minimize the risk of head injury, always wear the appropriate CSA-approved helmet designed specifically for the sport.

However, remember that while a helmet may reduce the chance of catastrophic brain injury and reduce the severity of a concussion, it will not prevent concussion. That’s where playing smart and playing safe come into the picture. When it comes to concussions, it’s important to use your head.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.