Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), caused by a traumatic impact (blow, bump, rapid or severe shaking or jolt) to the head that changes the way the brain normally functions. They range in severity from mild to severe, but presenting symptoms (or a lack thereof) do not necessarily correlate with whether or not a concussion has been sustained or to the extent of injury. Some people who suffer a concussion will lose consciousness; others won’t. Some people who have sustained a concussion will have little to no memory of the concussive event; others will exhibit no signs of forgetfulness. In the last few years, increased research on TBI has significantly advanced our understanding of the potential short- and long-term effects of concussions and the devastating implications that repeated mild concussions can have on thinking, sensation, communication, emotional and motor function.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Signs and symptoms of concussion typically fall into four categories: Thinking/Remembering, Physical, Emotional/Mood and Sleep. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has created a simple checklist of symptoms and signs that may indicate a concussion:
|Difficulty thinking clearly||HeadacheFuzzy or blurry vision||Irritability||Sleeping more than usual|
|Feeling slowed down||Nausea or vomiting
|Sadness||Sleep less than usual|
|Difficulty concentrating||Sensitivity to noise or lightBalance problems||More emotional||Trouble falling asleep|
|Difficulty remembering new information||Feeling tired, having no energy||Nervousness or anxiety|
Onset of symptoms can be immediate or might be delayed for days, weeks or even months following the injury. The majority of people who sustain a concussion will recover within a few days or weeks if proper precautions are taken, but older adults and those who have had a prior concussion may take much longer or suffer from persistent or chronic problems. Concussions can be frustratingly difficult to diagnose because some people will feel fine following the injury even though they are clearly thinking, talking and/or behaving differently. Others may sense that there is something wrong with them but will not seek medical help because they have no visible signs of injuries.
When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention
A rare and potentially fatal complication of a concussion can occur when a blood clot forms on the brain, causing the brain to swell and to place pressure on the skull. If any of the following danger symptoms are present, medical attention should be sought immediately:
- A worsening headache that does not go away
- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
- Feeling slowed down
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Appearance of drowsiness or inability to rouse the person
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Blurred vision
- Uneven size of pupils (the black part in the middle of the eye)
- Convulsions or seizures
- Impaired ability to think, concentrate or to remember, including inability to recognize familiar people and places
- Impaired balance and coordination
- Confusion, restlessness and agitation
- Unusual or odd behavior out of character for the person
- Loss of consciousness, no matter how brief
Concussion Danger Signs in Children
Young children can display similar symptoms of a concussion as older children and adults; however, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if a child has sustained a concussion. Young children may exhibit symptoms like:
- Will not stop crying and cannot be calmed down
- Headache that persists
- Loss of interest in playing or favorite toys
- Loss of skills, such as talking, toilet training, crawling, etc.
- Loss of balance and trouble ambulating (walking, crawling, turning over)
- Will not nurse or eat
Treatment for Concussions
In the event of sustaining a concussion, you should seek medical attention at the nearest hospital emergency room, medical clinic or office of your primary care physician. Your health care professional will want to determine how and when the injury happened and whether you have suffered any prior concussions. Your doctor or other health care professional will perform a physical exam and will try to determine if there are obvious signs of injury, such as changes in thinking, speaking, behavior or balance and coordination or difference in pupil size. He/she may order specialized tests to evaluate brain function. These may include:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) or brain wave tests: An EEG helps determine if a patient’s level of alertness or consciousness is normal, if abnormalities exist in a specific part of the brain or if the patient is showing any signs of seizures or convulsions.
- Head Computed Topography (CT): A Head CT is a series of X-rays taken from many different directions used to quickly detect the presence of brain injuries.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Brain: An MRI of the brain uses magnetic field and radio pulses to take pictures or images of the brain. The MRI is capable of showing tissue damage that cannot be seen on an X-ray. Sometimes dye is used with an MRI. This helps to show blood flow and can show areas of inflammation.
- Neuropsychological or Neurocognitive Testing: These are special tests designed to assess different areas of brain functioning, such as intelligence, memory, conceptual reasoning, and linguistic (language) skills, etc. These tests correspond to different areas or neural pathways in the brain. An abnormally low score on any one of these tests can indicate the possibility of brain impairment.
It is important to note that these tests are not entirely definitive. It is entirely possible to have sustained a concussion—even one with serious, lifelong effects—without a positive finding on any of these tests. Despite the incredible advances and sophistication of diagnostic testing and tools, medical and scientific capacity for discerning the source (pathogenesis) of brain injury remains incomplete. In other words, negative findings of a brain injury on any and all of these tests do not imply that there is no concussion.
If your healthcare professional determines that further evaluation or treatment is warranted, he/she may refer the patient to a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon, or specialist in rehabilitation (such as a physical, occupational or speech pathologist). Getting help soon after the injury by trained specialists may speed recovery.
It is important for to take the following precautions if you or someone you know has sustained a mild concussion:
- Do not leave the person alone. Be aware that concussions can have a delayed onset. Keep an active watch for any sign of complication.
- Follow the instructions that the healthcare provider has given, especially those that provide direction as to when it is safe to resume normal activities.
- Avoid all activities that could result in further injury.
- Avoid activities that require concentration or complicated thinking, such as homework, reading, writing, etc. Such activities stimulate the brain at a time when it needs rest and recuperation.
- Avoid bright lights and loud noises.
St. Louis Concussion Lawyers Fighting For Injury Victims
Concussions can have serious and lifelong effects. If you or a loved one has sustained a concussion due to the negligence or purposeful actions of another, we offer FREE CONSULTATIONS to all injury victims. Our Top 100 Trial Lawyers possess the knowledge and skills required to give your case the attention and expertise the injury deserves. Call The Dixon Injury Firm today: 314-409-7060 or 855-40-CRASH (toll free). There is NO FEE for our services unless we WIN.