Concussion

A concussion is an injury that affects the way the brain works or functions. Concussion is also called a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Concussions can occur from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or neck that causes the brain to move inside of the skull. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Concussions are not always associated with a loss of consciousness or extreme injuries. Even minor bumps can cause significant concussion.

Symptoms

Symptoms you may feel:

Physical

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Dizziness or difficulty with balance
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, or lots of sensory stimulation (for example, having difficulty in a crowded room)

Mental

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems remembering
  • Feeling foggy or slowed down

Emotional

  • A strong emotional reaction to having been injured
  • Feeling sad or down
  • Decreased interest in hobbies
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Nervousness
  • A desire to be isolated from other people or a concern about participating in community activities

Sleep

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Drowsiness

Red Flag Symptoms: When to Go to the Emergency Room

Seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Look drowsy or cannot be woken up
  • Headaches that severely worsen
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Increasing confusion
  • Difficulty recognizing people or places
  • Unusual behavior change
  • Increased irritability
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Continued vomiting

Family members should monitor the patient closely for any of these “red flag” signs or symptoms. Bring the patient back to the ER immediately if you see any of the above symptoms.

Diagnosing a Concussion

A physical exam and careful history are the best ways to diagnose a concussion. Your doctor may or may not need to perform imaging to rule out more serious injuries, such as bleeding in the brain or skull fractures. Concussions cannot be seen on imaging (X-rays, CT or CAT scans, MRIs). A full exam may reveal some of the signs and symptoms listed above, including difficulty with balance and/or memory.

Treatment and Recovery

The treatment of concussion is individualized, with the goal of getting you back to normal activities as safely as possible. The most important part of concussion management is rest, especially avoiding triggers or activities that make symptoms significantly worse. You should not participate in any physical or sport-related activities if you have symptoms. Doctors will be helpful in monitoring your symptoms and guiding recovery. Check in with your doctor for help with monitoring your symptoms and guiding your recovery. To help the brain heal properly, follow the instructions below:

  1. Get plenty of rest. Keep the same bedtime every day and get 8-10 hours of sleep at night.
  2. For the first few days, you may take naps or rest breaks if you are tired as long as it does not interfere with nighttime sleep.
  3. Limit physical and mental activities as they may make symptoms worse.Examples of physical activities include gym class, sport practice, weight training, and leisure activities such as biking, skiing and tubing. Examples of mental activities include video games, texting and computer activities.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals.
  5. Note that feelings of frustration and sadness are normal during this time when you are not being as active as usual.

As symptoms resolve, you may begin to gradually return to your daily routine. Symptoms that worsen or return are typically an indication that you are not ready and you may need to cut back on activities and try to increase again gradually. Physical activity should not be started until there is full-time return to school without symptoms or medications, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.

If you do not resume activities that make symptoms worse, and allow yourself to heal completely, the prognosis for your healing is generally very good. Once all of the symptoms are gone and you have been cleared by your doctor to resume activities, you should still be watchful for symptoms that return when you resume your normal activities.

Treatment of Concussion in Athletes through Michigan Neurosport

The University of Michigan is one of only a handful of comprehensive programs in the country dedicated to the neurological concerns of athletes through our multidisciplinary NeuroSport outpatient clinic. The mission of NeuroSport is to provide optimal individualized patient centered care for athletes of all levels with an emphasis on acute concussion care and potential long-term consequences of mild head trauma. For more information about NeuroSport, visit the Concussion in Athletes page.

Make an Appointment

To request an appointment or to get more information about Michigan NeuroSport, please call 734-930-7400 or send an email request to neurosport@umich.edu, with your name and phone number, and a team member will get back to you within two business days.