Concussions: FAQs

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What is a concussion?

A concussion occurs when an impact to the head results in a mild-trauma injury that disrupts brain activity.

How can you tell if you have a concussion?

You may not notice a concussion right away. One way to know for sure is if you feel terrible the next day.

Can I get a brain scan to show whether or not I have a concussion?

No. A concussion does not show up in imaging brain scans.

What should I look for with a concussion?

Concussions will heal with rest. But a more serious brain injury or multiple concussions can create long-term effects to your brain.

Seek medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing:

  • Difficulty talking
  • Worsening headache
  • Vomiting, especially while resting
  • Dizziness with abnormal eye movements

Teammates, co-workers or friends and family may notice some of these symptoms before you do. Some brain injuries have a delayed effect.

Must you hit your head and/or lose consciousness to sustain a concussion?

No. A concussion is not always caused by a hit to your head, and most concussions don’t result in loss of consciousness.

A bump, blow or jolt to the head can cause concussion. A blow to the head strains your brain cells, causing a chemical reaction that impairs nerve cell function. This event can cause a loss of consciousness.

Is it okay to take medicine for a headache with a concussion?

It’s safe to use Tylenol in the first 24 hours, as long as symptoms don’t get worse. Ibuprofen and Aleve should not be taken the first day, on the side of caution, as they may increase the risk of bleeding. If a headache continues after two weeks, you need to return to your doctor to look for other causes.

What exactly does “rest” mean?

This depends on the person. Providers say that patients can continue at-home activities such as watching television, using the computer or playing video games while resting. You should stop an activity if it causes a headache.

Cellphones are more difficult to use due to the lighting and small screens. But if it doesn’t hurt your eyes or head, then you’re fine. It has been found beneficial for patients to stay connected with friends, school or work while they are recovering.

How long does it take to recover from a concussion?

With a normal concussion, after two to three days of rest, you should be easing back into your normal routine.

What signs do I need to look for if my concussion isn’t improving?

Everyone is different. Take your time getting back into a normal routine and listen to your body. You should follow up with your primary care provider or outpatient rehabilitation therapist if your symptoms continue.

Are there any dietary restrictions while healing from a concussion?

You should continue eating a normal diet, as your body needs the energy to heal. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drinking coffee isn’t an issue as long as you can still sleep while you continue to rest. Providers will recommend you continue your routine medications while recovering from a concussion.

Why are multiple concussions serious?

Multiple head injuries are when an individual has a second head injury before the first injury has healed completely. Similar to the first injury, loss of consciousness is not required to have a concussion again. The second impact can cause swelling, excess fluids or tissue shift inside the skull which can cause serious health issues. Repeat head injuries also slow down your recovery.

Do I have any legal rights while recovering from a concussion?

Several laws exist to help patients return back to normal routine while recovering from a concussion. Return-to-Work and Return-to-Learn provide guidelines to help adults and students adjust back to increased cognitive activities after an injury. Professionals and educators aware of a patient’s condition can make accommodations that help them transition back.

The Return-to-Play law aims to protect student athletes during activities and post-injury. The law requires schools to ensure students’ safety through a combination of:

  • Mandatory removal from play
  • Mandatory bench times
  • Required medical clearance
  • Required training/education for coaches, parents and athletes
  • Informed consent of parents and athletes