A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, is a type of head trauma. Even though a concussion is considered a mild brain injury, it's important to treat it. The effects of a concussion can be severe and long-lasting.
Causes and triggers
Concussions can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head or neck. They can also occur after an impact to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. These impacts or rapid movements "shake" the brain within the skull, resulting in brain damage. Contact sports are often the cause of concussions in children and teens.
Concussion symptoms can vary from person to person. They may include loss of consciousness, but this is not always the case.
The following symptoms may occur within minutes to hours of a concussion:
- Dizziness or balance issues
- Irritability and abnormal behaviour
- Nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss: inability to recall events surrounding the trauma
Symptoms may resolve within minutes or hours. In some cases, however, symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or even years. This is referred to as post-concussion syndrome.
Long-term symptoms (post-concussion syndrome) include the following:
- Memory and concentration issues
- Mood swings
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Sleep problems
Concussions do not usually require treatment. It may take time, but most concussions heal on their own.
These tips can help with recovery:
- Rest for the first 24-48 hours after the trauma:
- Avoid activities that stimulate the brain, such as use of screen devices (e.g., computer, cellphone, video games), reading, and anything else requiring concentration.
- Avoid physical activity.
- Resume your activities gradually, as long as they don't increase concussion-related symptoms.
- Avoid alcohol until all symptoms have resolved.
- Don't engage in any activity where there is a risk of contact until your health care provider says it is safe to do so. A second concussion can further damage the brain.
- If you're experiencing headaches, talk to a health care professional about the best treatment for your situation.
If you've suffered a concussion, it's important to protect yourself against future injury. Sustaining multiple concussions can cause long-term brain damage. To reduce the risk of certain head injuries, take the following precautions:
- Wear a helmet when participating in contact sports or activities with a risk of falling (e.g., cycling, football, hockey) and when riding a motorcycle.
- Wear your seat belt at all times when travelling by car.
When should I see a health care professional?
If you've sustained or suspect that you've sustained a concussion, talk to a health care professional as soon as possible. He (she) will be able to refer you to the appropriate resources.
It's also recommended to have someone observe you in the days following a concussion so you can receive help if needed.
Consult a health care professional immediately in the following situations:
- You experience repeated vomiting
- You're having severe headaches or headaches that worsen over time
- You have convulsions
- You have difficulty speaking or walking
- You have vision problems
- You experience weakness or numbness in any part of your body
- You experience urinary or fecal incontinence
- You lose consciousness
- Those you live with are no longer able to wake you up