Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are caused by either a blow or a jolt to the head. Think of your head as a delicate egg, and think of your skull as the outer shell of the egg and your brain as the yolk inside. When your body or head is met with abrupt impact, it can cause your brain to move around in your skull, which results in a brain injury known as a concussion. This often happens while playing sports, but can happen in many other ways as well. Almost a half a million kids are treated each year for TBI or a concussion. In this blog, you will learn the warning signs of a concussion, and you will be equipped with ways to help the brain heal.
The words concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (or TBI) are used interchangeably. A concussion is a type of mild Traumatic Brain Injury. According to UAB Medicine, “both terms are used when there is a change in normal brain function for less than a minute following the impact”. You can have a TBI without a concussion if there is a change in brain function, but you can’t have a concussion without a TBI.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
It is interesting to note that the symptoms reported by the person with a head injury may be different from what was observed by someone else.
Signs That Might Be Observed
- Memory Loss – can’t recall events just before or after a hit or fall.
- Dazed and confused.
- Forgets instructions.
- Loses Consciousness (even if it’s just for a few seconds).
- Changes in behavior, mood, or personality.
What the Victim Might Say
- Headache or “pressure” in head.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Feels dizzy or has trouble with balance.
- Double or blurry vision.
- Sensitivity to light or noise.
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
- Confusion, or concentration, or memory problems.
- Just doesn’t “Feel Right”.
We recommend that you keep this concussion checklist from the CDC handy so that you can quickly assess for signs of a concussion. Schools should keep one in every classroom and Senior Living communities should make it readily available to caregivers. Not only is it a great tool for assessing symptoms, it is an effective means of communication for parents and health care providers. Keep in mind, symptoms may show up over time, so you need to continue to assess the victim until they can be seen by a professional. By documenting which symptoms appeared when, the doctors can better assess the head injury.
Based on these symptoms, doctors have three different grades to describe the severity of a concussion. They are:
- Mild (or Grade 1)- no loss of consciousness, and symptoms that last less than 15 minutes
- Moderate (Grade 2)- no loss of consciousness but symptoms that last longer than 15 minutes
- Severe (Grade 3)- Loss of consciousness
Here are some actions to take after noticing symptoms:
- Use direct pressure with a cold pack for swelling or knots.
- Call 911 if unconscious for any time period, seizure activity develops, or the person is on blood thinners.
- Seek medical care if any new symptoms, such as vomiting, a severe headache, blurred or double vision, or unsteadiness, develop after the injury.
While there is no secret answer for treating concussions and TBIs, rest and restricting brain activity is the best way to promote the brain’s natural healing; it’s best to rest both physically and mentally. Try to limit bright screens such as the computer, TV, and phone screens. Then, slowly work in mental exercises that don’t involve staring at a bright screen like your phone or computer. This will begin to exercise the parts of the brain that were once stagnant without overstimulating the brain. The intervals of stimulations and rest will vary based on the number and severity of the concussion. Make it a priority to consult with your doctor right after the injury on the best recovery plan for your specific needs.