A blow or a jolt to the head can cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). The injury keeps the brain from working normally. Symptoms of a concussion may last less than a day or may linger for months, or longer.
Millions of mild traumatic brain injuries occur in the U.S. each year, but most don't require a visit to the hospital.
Many concussions that require emergency treatment are because of falls, motor vehicle accidents, assaults, and sports injuries. Children, young adults, and older adults are at especially high risk for concussions and may take longer to recover after a concussion. People who have had concussions before are more likely to have them again.
These are symptoms of a possible concussion:
These symptoms may occur right away. But some may not start for weeks or even months after the injury.
To diagnose a concussion, your doctor will probably ask you a variety of questions. Be sure to say if you lost consciousness and report any other symptoms. The doctor will also want to know how the injury occurred and where you hit your head.
You may also be asked questions to test your memory and asked to do certain tasks to show how well your brain is functioning. Your doctor may also ask your friends or family questions about your symptoms and the injury.
Images of your brain using CT or MRI scans may be taken and evaluated.
An important part of treatment for a concussion is getting plenty of rest, both sleep at night and naps or rest breaks during the day if needed. Your doctor will probably tell you to avoid certain physical activities and sports while you recover and may suggest medicine to take if you have a headache.
If your symptoms don't go away in a few days or if they get worse, you may need to see a doctor who specializes in concussions.
You can take a number of steps to help reduce your risk for a concussion or prevent it in your children:
After a concussion, your healthcare provider may decide to monitor you in the emergency room. When you’re released, the provider will want someone to stay with you at home for a day or 2 to keep track of your condition. Follow your healthcare provider’s directions about avoiding sports, physical education classes, and activities such as running and bicycling while you are recovering.
Limit activities that require you to concentrate heavily. This includes taking tests if you are in school or doing tasks at work that require intense focus. You may also need to take rest breaks during the day. As your symptoms go away, you may be able to go back to your normal activities. The time it takes to recover from a concussion can vary from weeks to months. In rare cases, symptoms can last for years.
If you have symptoms or problems that last more than 3 months, you may have a problem called postconcussion syndrome. Discuss this possibility with your doctor.
Call your healthcare provider right away or go to the emergency room if you or someone else loses consciousness after a blow to the head or if any of these occur:
These could be signs of a serious condition that needs treatment right away.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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