What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury, caused by either a direct blow to the head or a hit to some other part of the body that causes a whiplash type motion of the neck & head. Imagine the brain as the yolk of an egg, nestled comfortably in its shell and protected by the egg white. When the yolk is moved quickly and violently, it smashes into the rigid shell – the same with your brain inside the skull.
A concussion is not a structural injury to the brain, but rather, it is a functional injury. That is why concussions don’t show up on MRI or CT scans. The brain has to be in perfect balance or equilibrium in order to function at its fullest potential. A concussion results in a disequilibrium or shift in metabolic need which then results in impaired brain function, and causes symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms
A concussion results in four kinds of symptoms: physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep-related. An athlete who demonstrates any of the following signs or symptoms following a direct or indirect blow to the head, should not return to play until evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Physical symptoms include headache, dizziness, balance problems, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, numbness & tingling, and fatigue.
Cognitive symptoms include feeling mentally foggy, feeling slowed down, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty remembering events before or after the injury.
Emotional symptoms consist of irritability, sadness, feeling more emotional than usual, and nervousness.
Sleep-related symptoms are drowsiness, sleeping more or less than usual, and trouble falling asleep.
Care & Management
The best care for a concussion is rest, both physical and cognitive.
Physical rest is staying out of PE class, athletic practices, competitions, and fitness activities until all of your symptoms are gone.
Cognitive rest is achieved by eliminating or significantly decreasing time spent reading, watching tv, playing video games, listening to music, studying, or any other activity that stimulates the brain.
Each patient is unique and each injury is unique. Our Credentialed ImPACT Consultant & certified athletic trainers will make specific recommendations at each stage of the recovery process to ensure that your injury resolves completely before you are returned to full activity. Returning to sports after a concussion is a gradual process. We want to make sure your body & brain are ready for the demands of high levels of activity.
In order to help us make sound return to play decisions, we ask each concussion patient to complete a RETURN TO PLAY PROGRESSION. This progression is not only the standard in modern concussion management, it is required by Louisiana ACT 314. Ideally, this is completed under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer. This progression is a gradual increase in activity, broken down into stages. Once you are completely symptom free with rest and cognitive exertion and have returned to ImPACT baseline scores, you may be instructed to start a return to play progression by your physician and certified athletic trainer.