What to do After a Concussion
Concussions are a common injury and easier to get than people think. They are typically caused by a sudden strike or bump to the head that causes sudden damage to the brain. Catching a concussion early can be critical, once diagnosed there are activities that must be avoided and other things that are recommended, if one is to overcome the injury and return to health. One concussion is different from another and they can affect people in different ways. They also vary greatly in severity.
What Causes Concussion?
A sudden strike to the head or jolt to the body can cause the brain to slide violently against the walls of your skull. The brain itself is protected by soft tissue and fluid, but this may not be enough to protect it from should the head jolt suddenly from a powerful force. Hard impact against the skull can still be damaging and there is only so much the soft tissue around the brain can do to protect it. Our brains are more fragile then we realise in more ways than one.
Long-term concussions are generally more severe and they can have either a subtle or major impact on an individual’s life. The good news is they are treatable and one day will hopefully be a distant memory, in the here and now however, they can be devastating and for some people career ending.
How long does it last?
Concussions can heal over time, but others can linger on plaguing the sufferer in different ways for years to come. Many a sports star has had their bright career cut short from an unexpected bump to the head. Others have eventually managed to return to the sport that they love after several months or even years of treatment. The sad part is for some by the time they return they may be past their prime or lost the confidence and drive they once had. This is true for anyone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury not just recovering sports stars.
Seeking immediate medical attention is essential if you suspect you may have a concussion, never just risk it and hope the injury isn’t that serious – the consequences can be incredibly dire.
It’s important to be aware of the early signs and indicators that point to a concussion and to know what to do next, and perhaps even more importantly, what not to do. Should you receive a bump to the head and suspect you are concussed there are some early warning signs:
- Nausea or vomiting – this feeling may stay even after the stomach has vomited its contents.
- Eyes have irregular size differences such as dilation or pupils being smaller than usual.
- A person’s behaviour may be slightly odd or out of character.
- Forgetfulness – or in extreme cases amnesia or forgetting people/places around them.
- Headaches and muscle spasms, in more serious cases possible seizures
- Serious dizziness or vertigo.
- Pain – continuous pain in the head and other areas that is persistent.
- Blurry vision or temporary blindness, others may ‘see stars’ and struggle to maintain balance.
- Numbness or general fatigue and lethargy.
- Drowsiness or in more serious cases passing out.
- Irregular or slurred speech
- Inability to wake up from a deep sleep.
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Do’s & Don’ts When Suffering from Concussion
If you or a loved one suffer from any of the above symptoms after suffering a traumatic blow to the head then seek medical advice immediately. Here is further advice on the Dos and Don’ts of what to do after potentially suffering a concussion:
1) If you suspect that you acquired your injury during sport or a certain activity then stop this at once. This may not need to be for long, just don’t expose yourself to unnecessary risk.
2) Seek advice sooner rather than later. Do not wait for a ‘good night sleep’ first. It may not be better in the morning but much worse. Only sleep once a doctor says it is safe. Once it is safe make sure you get lots of it.
3) Drink lots of water and avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.
4) Eat quality healthy food like fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.
5) Going for short gentle walks in the fresh air may be beneficial when in recovery.
6) Stick to the recovery plan medical professionals set for you.
7) Remember this may be long process of recovery, and your life may change in subtle ways.
8) Maintain your regular fitness regime, just cut out anything to strenuous or risky to your recovery.
9) Keep people around you and try to not be isolated, especially if the injury is fresh.
1) As above do not return to the activity where you suspect you got the concussion. This is incredibly dangerous.
2) Take paracetamol or ibuprofen without advice from a medical professional. These can increase the risk of internal bleeding and may do nothing to relieve the pain if it is serious.
3) Spend too much time in front of bright screens like computers or TVs.
4) Expose yourself to bright lights or loud music.
5) Attempt to drive a car or operate machinery.
6) Eat food which is too sugary or salty. Some food can aid recovery where some can extend the time it takes.
7) Avoid socialising with friends or family in recovery, having a support system around you is essential for recovery.
8) Do not exert yourself mentally or physically, rest is key. But going for short gentle walks in the fresh air may be beneficial.
9) Do not take any drugs unless prescribed by a doctor. Painkillers may be okay but get advice before risking it.
Remember a concussion is a legitimate brain injury and should be treated as such. Underestimating the injury or trivialising it could be risky and may put you at risk of further health problems. While most concussions are minor and temporary they can become something far worse if they are not given the care and attention they need quickly, also don’t forget to treat yourself with care and attention during the recovery process.
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