A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. It usually is caused by a blow to the head. Cuts or bruises may be present on the head or face, but in many cases, there are no signs of trauma. Many people assume that concussions involve a loss of consciousness, but that is not true. In most cases, a person with a concussion never loses consciousness. People with concussions often cannot remember what happened immediately before or after the injury, and they may act confused. A concussion can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination. Paramedics and athletic trainers who suspect a person has suffered a concussion may ask the injured person what year it is or direct them to count backwards from 10 in an attempt to detect altered brain function.
Even mild concussions should not be taken lightly. Neurosurgeons and other brain-injury experts emphasize that although some concussions are less serious than others, there is no such thing as a "minor concussion." In most cases, a single concussion should not cause permanent damage. A second concussion soon after the first one, however, does not have to be very strong for its effects to be deadly or permanently disabling. Treatment: The standard treatment for concussion is rest. For headaches, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be taken. Postconcussive headaches often are resistant to stronger narcotic-based medications.
People who suffer a head injury may suffer from side effects that persist for weeks or months. This is known as postconcussive syndrome. Symptoms include memory and concentration problems, mood swings, personality changes, headache, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia and excessive drowsiness. Patients with postconcussive syndrome should avoid activities that put them at risk for a repeated concussion. Athletes should not return to play while experiencing these symptoms. Athletes who suffer repeated concussions should consider ending participation in the sport.