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Aurora Physical Therapists Explain Proper Post Injury Care After A Head Injury

September 28, 2017

It’s the time of year again for a new season of sports, and it is important that we are aware of the consequences of our favorite high-impact athletics. As aurora physical therapists, our staff has seen more than our fair share of sport related injuries.  Concussions have been a major topic of recent news, but how do we know when a bump on the head can be a serious condition requiring medical attention?

There have been many findings about the number of undiagnosed concussions that occur in athletics and the consequences of improper post injury care. Even without symptoms of a typical concussion, there can still be long term effects that can appear slowly even years later.

This increased awareness of the long term effect of head injury has given rise to concerted efforts to prevent, recognize, and treat any blow to the head that may result while engaging in athletic competition. Football is a prime example of a sport that has placed an emphasis on improving the effectiveness of head protecting helmets and making major rule changes in attempts to ensure the safety of players.  

That being said, the physical nature and competitive environment of high-impact athletics continue to inherently produce a level of injury risk. Although there continues to be attempts to minimize the frequency and severity of head injuries, it remains important for everyone, particularly those coaching and playing, to educate themselves in reacting to possible concussion scenarios.

In this article, we will be discussing what a concussion is, methods for detecting the symptoms, and post injury care after sustaining a blow to the head.

What exactly is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can alter the function of the brain caused by any direct trauma OR rapid movement of the head.  While concussions most commonly result from a strike to head, it can occur from any jolt or impact to the body hard enough to shake the brain within the skull.

Spinal fluid typically serves to cushion the brain from the skull, but the force in a concussion is great enough to cause the brain to collide with the skill. The collision causes enough damage to brain cells to create chemical changes. The result is a number of possible physical and/or emotional effects.

Signs that someone else may be concussed:

Diagnosing a concussion is not always straightforward. The symptoms of a each concussion and their severity can vary. Some symptoms may appear immediately after the injury or they may not appear for days/weeks after the initial injury. Sometimes a symptom can last for a few hours and sometimes that same symptom can last for weeks. As a parent or coach, you may notice signs an athlete has been concussed such as:
  • Appearing confused or dazed
  • Forgetting an instruction
  • Unsure of the score during a game, or even who the opponents are
  • Clumsy movements
  • Slow to answer questions
  • Pupil dilation and responsiveness to light
  • Impaired ability to follow objects with their eyes
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Changes in mood, personality, behavior
  • Cannot recall events prior to or following the trauma

There are a variety of preliminary test one can do to try and better gauge if a concussion has been sustained. These include tests that analyze vision, hearing, balance, reflex, memory, coordination, and mental processing speed.

These tests involve practices that have the injured person answer a series of questions and perform a variety of tasks that would normally not present a challenge to them. The Sports Concussion Assessment Tool can be used directly and/or give you an idea of how to investigate an injury.

Signs that you may be concussed:

The person who sustained the injury may notice symptoms such as:
  • Headache or pressure in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light and/or noise
  • Feeling foggy, sluggish, hazy
  • Trouble with concentration or memory or seeming generally confused
  • Feeling down or just not right
  • Low energy levels
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Athletes are not the only ones who can sustain a concussion, so look for the same signs with any injury to the head or jarring impact to the body.

Impromptu concussion tests can be somewhat subjective and do not necessarily provide a conclusive answer. If there seems to be any signs of a concussion, it is important that a doctor examines the injured person. There can be serious problems associated with concussions and head injuries that may not be immediately clear.

Even if there does not seem to be a concussion and the injury sustained seems casual, be sure to keep an eye out for delayed or increased symptoms that may signal a more serious injury.

Post Injury Care

It is important to report any of these symptoms, as the brain requires time to heal after a concussion. During this healing time, rest is a major priority as the brain is more susceptible to another injury immediately after the concussion. This not only includes physical rest, but also mental rest.

Anything that is causing a resurgence in symptoms is likely too mentally or physically demanding until you have had more time to heal. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, illegal drugs, and non doctor approved medications will often delay and interfere with the healing process. Ice can be used for 10-20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling. In rare cases, recurrent concussions can cause permanent brain damage and some may even be fatal.

If you or your athlete suspects a concussion, remove the athlete from play and seek medical attention. At Body Image Physical Therapy & Fitness, our therapists specialize in a long proven concussion therapy known as Craniosacral therapy, along with other proven techniques, to promote healthy recovery, whether the injury was sustained in an accident at home, in the car or on the field. Help to ensure a safe return to sports and life activities by proper post-concussion care.  Questions? Please contact Body Image Physical Therapy at 720-870-8900.