Concussion & Head Injury

Concussion & Head Injury

A concussion is the result of a traumatic injury that causes the brain to move violently in the skull, damaging cells and impairing brain function. Falls, blows to the head, auto and bike accidents, and sports injuries often produce concussions, which may be mild and show no initial symptoms – or may be severe with loss of consciousness. Concussions are distinguished from other acute brain injuries by the fact that imaging does not show bleeding or pooling of blood in the skull. Nonetheless, these injuries should be taken seriously, and patients need to be monitored for symptoms that appear hours or even days after the initial impact.

Symptoms of a Concussion

Anyone suffering even a minor blow to the head should be checked for a concussion and monitored for symptoms like these:

  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slurred or repetitive speech
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Severe headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unequal pupils
  • Neck stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Loss of arm or leg movement
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Personality changes

Older adults, young children, and people taking blood thinners are especially vulnerable to concussions and should be checked out by medical personnel after any head injury.

  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep disturbances

Diagnosis of a Concussion

Concussion diagnosis involves a general evaluation of the patient’s condition. Depending on age, condition, and type of injury, sports doctors or emergency department personnel will examine reflexes, vital signs and responses to questions, looking for signs of concussion symptoms. In some cases, they may order imaging like CT-scans or MRIs to rule out more serious brain trauma.

Treatment for a Concussion

Treatment for concussion consists mainly of adequate rest to allow the brain to recover. Many adults experience post-concussive headaches, irritability and difficulty concentrating. These after-effects may last up to three months after the injury while the brain is healing. An early return to sports and normal activity can have serious long-term side effects, including:

  • Depression
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Behavioral & emotional changes
  • Brain damage
  • Biochemical changes at the cellular level
  • Increased risk for epilepsy, Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s disease

Sports Concussion & Prevention

Recent studies have revealed the prevalence of serious long-term health risks from concussions caused by sports injuries. In many cases, these risks are increased in those with repeat concussions that occur before the brain has healed from the initial injury.

Athletes, student-athletes and amateur participants in organized sports and fitness activities should observe safety practices like wearing helmets in sports known for falls and blows to the head. In addition, if a head injury or concussion occurs, an individual should be encouraged to rest and refrain from the sports activity until the brain has had ample time to heal.

Princeton Brain, Spine, & Sports Medicine: Specialists in Sports Concussion

Dr. Nirav Shah and the neurosurgeons at PBSSM specialize in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries like sports concussions. In addition to providing post-concussion management and evaluation, the doctors of PBSSM educate the community: presenting at schools, on TV and radio about the dangers of untreated concussion. To schedule a baseline test or post-concussion evaluation with Dr. Shah, call 215.741.3141 in Pennsylvania, 609.921.9001 in New Jersey, or contact PBSSM online. We are committed to your neurosurgical health and are proud to provide many of the area’s amateur and professional sports teams with concussion services and education about safe concussion practices.

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