Concussions

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What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that can affect how your brain works. Concussions can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head, neck, face, or body that causes the brain to shake inside your skull. Helmets DO NOT prevent or protect against concussions, but protect against other head injuries.

It is not always easy to know if someone has a concussion. You cannot see the injury from the outside and often X-rays, MRI or CT scans appear normal. Always suspect a concussion, even if the incident did not appear to be serious.

Not everyone experiences a concussion in the same way. Concussions can cause many negative side effects, including impacts to brain functions, to cognitive, emotional and physical health, and to sleep patterns. Symptoms of a concussion range from mild to severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. Symptoms can occur right away or even a few days after the injury. Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of a concussion.

Consequently, the healing process also varies from person to person. A concussion is unlike any other type of injury.

If you think your child has a concussion immediately remove your child from the activity and seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

 Common symptoms of a concussion

Physical:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • “Pressure in the head”
  • Headache
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Neck pain
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tired or low energy

Thinking and remembering:

  • Difficulty remembering
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling slowed down

Emotional:

  • Easily upset or angered
  • Nervous or anxious
  • More emotional
  • Feeling like in a “fog”
  • “Don’t feel right”
  • Sad

Sleep

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Having a hard time falling asleep

Symptoms in young children 

While young children can have the above symptoms of a concussion, sometimes it can be hard to tell if a small child has a concussion. Be aware of these warning signs:

  • Crying more than usual
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Changes in the way they play or act
  • Changes in the way they nurse, eat, or sleep
  • Being upset easily or having more temper tantrums
  • Lack of interest in their usual activities or favourite toys
  • Loss of new skills, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking
  • Not paying attention

How are concussions treated?

Recovering from a concussion can take a few days, weeks or months. It is important to give yourself time to heal and slowly return to your regular activities. Returning to daily activities should only be done with approval from your physician or Nurse Practitioner. If symptoms return, stop and rest for a day.

Rest is the best way to treat a concussion. Rest both your body and your brain. These tips will help you recover:

  • Get plenty of sleep at night, and take it easy during the day
  • Do not use alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Only take medicines that your doctor says is okay
  • Avoid activities that are physically or mentally demanding
  • You may need to change your school or work schedule while you recover
  • Ask your doctor when it is safe for you to drive a car or ride a bike
  • Use ice or a cold pack on any swelling for 10 to 20 minutes at a time

Second Impact Syndrome

While rare, second impact syndrome is very dangerous. Second impact syndrome can happen when a person, who has a brain injury and while still experiencing symptoms (not fully recovered), sustains a second brain injury. This can cause brain swelling and permanent brain injury or death. Brain swelling may also occur without previous trauma.

Visit our Injury Prevention in Schools page for school-related concussion information.

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