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When In Doubt, Go Get Checked Out!

Concussions are gaining more and more attention as more research is being done about this often ambiguous subject. In the past, athletes were often said to have gotten their “bell rung” or were considered to have gotten “lit up” after a hard hit in a contact sport. Unfortunately, many were told to “shake it off” and get back in the game if they felt a little better soon after the hit. We now know that that is an unsafe practice and can lead to long-lasting effects, and in the worst-case scenarios death. 

Who is Affected by Concussions?

Athletes aren’t the only demographic of people that sustain concussions though. We see concussion mishaps with:

  • Car accidents (from whiplash or hitting one’s head on a hard surface)
  • Falling down the steps
  • Otherwise falling or getting hit with some sort of object

Most people think that the headache should go away in a few days and they’ll get better, but if a significant collision has been made with any person or thing, it’s always safe to get an evaluation by a professional clinician.

A “Bruised” Brain

Because of the nature of brain injuries, conservative management is key. A brain that has been “injured” doesn’t just have a bruise, but there is a whole host of metabolic changes occurring on the inside, throwing off the way that different bodily systems are processing. Along with that, there is a decrease of blood flow to the brain.

This places the brain in a vulnerable position, needing to be handled with care. Trying to push through this initial phase will actually set back the healing process; however, sitting in a dark room all day is no longer the suggested method of dealing with symptoms either. Pushing through the symptoms in an uncontrolled setting won’t allow the brain to rest and can cause symptoms to worsen and prolong the time it takes to fully recover.

Why Get Evaluated?

Getting an evaluation for a possible head injury will allow the clinician to assess your symptoms, your history, cognition, balance, and vestibular-ocular motor screening. All of these will give the clinician an understanding about where you are in the process, and what daily modifications and exercises to begin doing to get you back to normal. Each exercise given is meant to challenge you to a point of mild symptoms, with adequate rest, in order for your brain to adapt and take on increased loads of stimulation…safely. 

If you’re an athlete (or your child is) its especially important to keep them from activity until screened and cleared through a return to play protocol. Getting hit a second time after an initial head injury can leave lasting effects on the brain’s processing abilities. Don’t just assume that you or your child is fine! It’s better to stay out of the game for the necessary time than to let them back in and do more harm than what was already done!

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some general signs and symptoms to look out for if you or someone around you suspects to have a concussion:

  • Headache
  • Lethargy/Drowsiness
  • Feeling more emotional or irritable than normal
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Light and/or noise sensitivity
  • Lack of focus
  • Memory loss/deficits
  • Loss of balance while walking or changing positions
  • Nausea/vomiting

If any of these symptoms are present, or you or your child just feels “off”, it’s worth an evaluation!

By Kiara Holmes, ATC

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