A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works. A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
The damage to the brain occurs at the chemical level and normal brain cell function is disrupted. Additional injury is complicated by the restriction of blood flow to the damaged areas and the simultaneous increase in demand of the blood flow that is necessary for repair.
Diagnostic imaging studies are typically normal after a concussion.
What happens during a concussion?
Did you know?
Thousands of children and youth sustain concussions every year – only half of which are related to school sports. Concussion can occur even without the loss of consciousness. In fact, only 1 out of 10 concussed children report being "knocked out" from their injury.
Ninety percent of concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
Severity of the concussion injury is not determined by location of the impact or loss of consciousness.
People who have previously had a concussion are at an increased risk for additional concussions; this risk goes up exponentially with every concussion.
Younger children take longer to recover.
What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Signs and symptoms of concussion can show right after the injury or may not be noticed until days or weeks after the injury. If a person reports one or more symptoms of concussion after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, he or she should not return to normal activity until a health care professional experienced in evaluating concussion says he or she is symptom-free and can be released from all restrictions.
The most common signs and symptoms of a concussion are related to four groups: thinking, physical, emotional and sleep/energy.
Disorientation and confusion
Feeling slowed down or in a fog
Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
Difficulty retaining new information
Sensitivity to light or noise
Nausea or vomiting
Impaired balance (this is often the first symptom to recover)
Lack of motivation
Trouble falling asleep
Sleeping less than usual
Altered sleep pattern
How long do symptoms normally last?
Seventy-five percent of concussions will resolve within 10 days.
Ninety percent of concussions will resolve within three weeks.
If symptoms persist longer than three months, a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome may be appropriate.
The basis of concussion management is physical and cognitive rest until symptom-free, with gradual resumption of daily activities.
The imbalance of energy is a key reason why people are susceptible to worsening symptoms after an injury, especially if proper rest does not occur. Premature activity, both cognitive and physical, can worsen and prolong symptoms.
During this time, you should not drink alcohol or caffeine and you should avoid driving. It is okay to take Tylenol for headaches, ice your head or neck, eat a light diet, and get lots of rest and sleep.
Steps to Recovery
Rest the body.
Rest the brain for at least 24 hours. This means limited physical activity, avoiding media (computers, TV, cell phones, etc.) and limiting exposure to stimulation (music, bright lights, crowds).
See a health care professional who has been trained in managing concussions within 72 hours of the injury.
Find a Trained Provider
If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the above signs and symptoms after sustaining an injury, we highly encourage you to seek care from a medical professional with experience managing concussions within 72 hours of the injury.
Contact the Concussion Clinic at (406) 758-7035. Appointments are made within three business days, when possible, for concussion patients.
Located at the Summit
Neuroscience & Spine Institute, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
205 Sunnyview Lane
Kalispell, MT 59901