Researchers estimate that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in the United States each year. However, since many people do not recognize the signs, doctors believe that at least half of all concussions are unreported and untreated. This guide will help you understand which activities are associated with a high risk of concussion, how to spot the warning signs of this condition, and which treatment methods are recommended.
How it Happens
Concussions are generally caused by violent blows to the head or neck and by sudden accelerations or decelerations of the head. These can occur in traumatic incidents, such as car accidents or falls, and they frequently occur in contact sports, such as hockey, soccer, football, and boxing. Getting hit with a soccer ball, hockey puck, or football could lead to a concussion, and bumping the head after slipping on a wet floor or an area rug could also result in this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Concussions are silent injuries that don’t always present symptoms, but signs include nausea, headaches, blurred vision, ringing in ears, sensitivity to light, sudden fatigue, inability to concentrate, and balance difficulties. Patients may also develop vomiting, and speech might become slurred. In the days after a concussion, patients could experience difficulties with memory, and taste and smell may be altered. Depression, irritability, personality changes, and sleep disturbances could occur. In infants and children, parents might notice excessive crying and changes in eating patterns, and the child may lose interest in his or her favorite toys. Emergency care should be obtained for any patient who experiences repeated vomiting, seizures, visual disturbances, or a worsening headache.
Treatment and Recovery
Currently, rest is considered to be the most appropriate treatment for concussions, and the recovery period can take several weeks. Doctors recommend that individuals who have had a concussion get both physical and mental rest. Sports and physical exertion should be avoided, and patients are also advised to limit video games, television, computer usage, and homework if those activities worsen their symptoms. Patients will need to have a doctor’s clearance before returning to sports, and they should always let their doctor know of any new or worsening symptoms.
Since the signs of a concussion can be very subtle, it is always best to seek a doctor’s evaluation if a patient has anything more than a minor bump to the head. Seeking an early evaluation means that treatment can begin right away, and it could also prevent potentially serious complications such as vertigo, post-concussion syndrome, and second impact syndrome.
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