A concussion is a common type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It can result from a blow to the head—such as those that may occur during impact sports like football or boxing—intense shaking of the upper body, or a forceful collision that jerks the head violently in one direction. These powerful impacts can cause the brain to move within the skull, affecting blood vessels and nerves and triggering temporary changes in brain function. Concussion management strategies are designed to promote gradual brain healing through strategic periods of physical and mental rest, among other techniques.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 1.7 million and 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States every year. Although concussions are generally considered to be “mild” non-life-threatening injuries, it’s critical to promptly consult with a medical professional if you think you may have sustained a concussion.
Common Concussion Management Strategies
No two concussion management plans are exactly alike. The approach that’s best for you will depend on the extent of your head injury as well as your symptoms, age, overall health, and several other individualized factors.
You should always follow your physician’s specific concussion treatment instructions, but virtually all recovery plans involve rest. The CDC’s HEADS UP initiative provides children and teens with some general steps to follow that are also helpful for adults:
Rest is key in the days following a concussion. Avoid activities that require unnecessary thinking or physical activity and prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. If you feel like taking a nap or two during the day, go ahead!
2. Light Activity
As you begin to feel more like yourself, try enjoying relaxing activities at home that won’t exacerbate your symptoms. If you start to feel worse, stop the activity. Continue to prioritize sleep, avoid screen time before bed, and make sure to sleep in a dark, quiet room. You may also gradually return to school or work, depending on your occupation.
3. Moderate Activity
When concussion symptoms are nearly gone, try to return to a normal school or work schedule. If you begin to notice symptoms, take a break and adjust your schedule accordingly.
4. Return to Normal Activity
You may return to normal activities—including work or school—when your symptoms are completely gone and you feel like yourself again.
The CDC’s recommendations coincide with state-specific concussion protocols that are followed when an injured student athlete is ready return to play. These protocols involve slightly adjusting school scheduling and gradually increasing activity levels in addition to administering brain function tests. (The athlete will take a pre-season baseline brain function test, and its results will be compared to those of a post-injury test to assess cognitive health).
Not a student athlete? Most of these same concussion management principals still apply. To summarize, try to limit or avoid activities that require brain power in the days immediately following your concussion, including:
- Scrolling on social media
- Playing video games
- Watching television
- Listening to loud music
- Performing physical activity
Prioritize rest and slowly try to reincorporate activities back into your schedule, making sure to stop if you notice worsening symptoms. Closely follow your physician’s concussion management plan and only return to physical activity when you’ve been medically cleared to do so. If you have questions, reach out! Your physician is here to help.
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The Importance of Managing Concussion Symptoms
Neglecting to address concussion symptoms or returning to normal activities too quickly can prolong the recovery period and potentially lead to long-term complications such as chronic headaches and post-concussion syndrome—a group of symptoms like brain fog and mood swings that can linger for several months or even years. If you sustain multiple head injuries without implementing proper concussion management strategies, the risk of lasting mental health problems, memory issues, and structural brain injuries increases.
Promptly visit your primary care physician to receive an evaluation if you are experiencing possible symptoms of a concussion. These symptoms can vary, but often include one or more of the following:
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Trouble sleeping
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- New feelings of sadness or anxiety
- Changes in personality
Symptoms may develop shortly following the injury or in the days afterward. Generally speaking, the most common signs of a concussion are headaches and losing memory of the concussive event.
If you witness an injury to someone else, it’s a good idea to watch for these common concussion symptoms:
- Slurred or slow speech
- Delayed responses to questions
- A dazed or confused expression
- Temporary loss of consciousness (this doesn’t always happen)
Finally, be sure to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you or someone around you:
- Experiences concussion symptoms that worsen or do not go away
- Loses consciousness for more than 30 seconds
- Has blood or fluid draining from the ears or nose
- Has pupils of unusual or unequal size
- Is notably confused or can’t remember people or places
- Experiences seizures or convulsions
- Can’t walk or speak normally
- Is a child who has a large bruise or lump on their head
Specialized Concussion Treatment Close to Home
Dr. W. Andrew Sprouse and his skilled team provide personalized concussion management plans to adult and pediatric patients at Florida Medical Clinic in New Tampa. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with us if you believe you may have a concussion or are exhibiting non-life-threatening concussion symptoms. In the event of a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately.
About W. Andrew Sprouse, MD
Dr. W. Andrew Sprouse takes a holistic approach to concussion care to help patients prevent and recover from traumatic brain injuries and enjoy healthy, active lifestyles. Specializing in musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound imaging and orthobiologic methods, Dr. Sprouse addresses a variety of complex sports-related injuries through advanced, non-invasive techniques.