TBI & Concussion

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A concussion can cause scary symptoms. You might feel dizzy or fuzzy-brained, have memory issues and headaches. But most symptoms don't last. Concussion recovery happens naturally. 

Don't Ignore the Signs of Concussion

Concussions and brain injuries tend to be invisible. Even brain scans like CTs and MRIs typically don’t show damage.

Concussions can be caused by a direct hit to the head, face, and neck. They can also happen if you're hit elsewhere, but the blow causes whiplash. Symptoms from a concussion may start soon after the injury or you may not feel them until days or weeks later.

So pay attention to the signs. If you hit your head and you're having symptoms, you need to rest. Concussions are mild brain injuries. Rest can help you recover.

Critical: Rest & Care

If you don't let your brain heal, you're at risk for getting more concussions. A second hit to your head — or more — within a short period of time can cause major brain damage. 

If you have symptoms that don't go away, talk to your doctor. At UVA Health, we have specialists and services to help you heal.

Traumatic Brain Injury Experts

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can seem like a concussion at first. But unlike concussions, a TBI can have a major impact on your life. The symptoms can hurt your ability to function. They are more severe and last longer.

Our nationally known brain injury specialists have helped set care guidelines for the NFL and U.S. military veterans. And we have one of central Virginia’s only centers to test this kind of brain injury and function. We evaluate and treat people living with TBI, seizure disorders, and brain infections.

How the Brain Reacts After a Concussion

The neurochemical reactions following a physical blow of any kind, not just to the head, are responsible for the symptoms of a concussion. The brain operates on glucose. A severe impact can stop the body from delivering glucose to the brain. This results in an energy crisis in the brain.

The lack of glucose, or energy, in the brain can cause:

  • Dazed feelings
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Double or blurred vision

Symptoms start to disappear as the chemicals in the brain return back to normal.

Concussion Recovery Means Self-Care

The first thing a concussion requires for healing: rest. Not only does the brain need to reset, but you should avoid physical activity that could risk another injury while recovering from the first.

  • Get rest
  • Eat well
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Gradually return to exercise under the supervision of an athletic trainer

Concussion Recovery Time

Recovery time depends on gender and age, but is usually 5-10 days for a healthy adult. Both the very young and the very old tend to take as much as 30 days or longer to fully recover.

    Questions? See our frequently asked questions.

    When Symptoms Don't Go Away

    Persisting symptoms after concussion need care. You should see a provider if it's been 2 weeks and you're still feeling:

    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Vision problems
    • Sensitivity to noise and/or light
    • Intolerance to busy environments
    • Mood issues
    • Irritability
    • Memory problems
    • Attention/concentration problems
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Fatigue

    You could be having a slower recovery, because of factors like:

    • Anxiety
    • History of multiple concussions
    • Learning disabilities
    • ADHD

    At UVA, our neurologists offer expertise in concussion evaluation and treatment. We'll look at all of your issues:

    • Physical
    • Mental
    • Emotional

    If necessary, we'll perform exams to test your brain and vision. We'll develop a care team of specialists to develop a treatment approach for your specific needs. 

    Concussion Evaluations for Athletes

    ImPACT tests (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test) are a tool that helps us evaluate and manage suspected concussions. This test, which is done by computer, measures cognitive functioning, including attention, memory, and reaction time. ImPACT tests come in two forms:

    • Baseline tests are given before the start of a sports season, school year, or other physical activity. They're usually recommended because they can provide an accurate snapshot of the cognitive state of individual athletes before a concussion happens.
    • Post-injury tests are given when a concussion is suspected. The results are compared to baseline scores to see how bad a concussion is affecting you.

    Concussion Symptom Treatment & Support

    Your body can heal from a concussion on its own. But you might need more support. We can provide:

    • Medication to ease headaches, help with sleep, or relax muscle spasms
    • Occupational therapy for vision problems or eye strain
    • Physical therapy to help with headaches, neck pain, dizziness, or lack of energy

    Vestibular Therapy

    Vestibular therapy is a kind of physical therapy. It can help you heal from concussion symptoms affecting your:

    • Reaction times
    • Balance
    • Coordination
    • Dual-task performance
    • Eye and head coordination
    • Fine motor issues

    Cognitive Therapy

    Cognitive therapy can help with your memory, attention span, and other issues when you have concussion symptoms that are taking a long time to get better.

    Support Recovery With Exercise

    Treatment may also include exercise. Starting light activity and exercise a couple of days after concussion can actually help you feel better.

    Boost Your Mental Health

    Concussions can make anxiety, depression, or other mood issues worse. If this happens, we can help you find a strategy to cope. You could benefit from:

    • Relaxation strategies
    • Meditation
    • Counseling 

    Our team can direct you to resources and help you find relief.