Don’t Shake Off Head Injuries
The Concussion Institute's Chief Neuropsychologist, Marla Shapiro, PhD, NCSP, helps you learn the basics about concussions.
Every year in the United States, more than 80 percent of sports-related concussions go unrecognized, putting athletes at higher risk of long-term damage because of inadequate treatment. This is true, in large part, because the community is not properly educated about what a concussion really is, how to identify it, and/or how to treat it.
As a neuropsychologist who specializes in sports-related concussions, it is my mission, as well as the mission of the new Concussion Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth, to help educate parents, coaches, teachers, health professionals and athletes about these topics, ensuring a safer sports culture in our community, and getting our athletes back to what they love as quickly as possible, and as safely as possible.
A concussion is not a bruise on the brain!
A concussion is caused by a bump or a blow—usually (but not always!) to the head—that is significant enough to effect the metabolic (or chemical) functioning of the brain. It can not be detected by an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, though those are sometimes recommended in order to rule out a more serious injuries involving a bruise or a bleed.
Concussions don’t always involve a loss of consciousness or memory:
A concussion temporarily impairs how the brain functions and processes information, but symptoms are not always obvious, or severe. Although it is commonly assumed that concussions cause loss of consciousness, many people with concussions have not been "knocked out." The fogginess that we used to call a “bell-ringer” is, in fact, a concussion.
There can be a variety of symptoms, which may appear right away, or a day or two later as individuals continue to exert physically, or mentally. Often see physical symptoms, such as drowsiness, headache, and sensitivity to light or noise. But, we also hear about cognitive symptoms, like fogginess and difficulties concentrating. Most often we hear that individuals just don’t feel right.
The Key to Healing Concussion: Rest
Healing from concussion requires rest—complete rest at the outset if needed for severe symptoms to subside, and then a gradual return back to typical activites. This includes not just physical rest, but mental rest as well—that is, anything that involves sustained attention and concentration. Reading, computer work, video games and television should be limited until all symptoms have resolved. Since trying to take them away completely from busy adolescents can be challenging, we work with children, adolescents and adults to find just the right balance for each individual.
A gradual return to daily activities is also key, since doing too much too soon can trigger a worsening or recurrence of symptoms. Our education coordinator works with schools to find just the right balance of rest and academics for every student, knowing that every individual circumstance is different—there is no one-size-fits-all approach to concussion management!
Don’t Stop Here—Learn More
I’m pleased to be a part of the new multidisciplinary Concussion Institute at GMC-Duluth, the first center of its kind in the Southeast. The convenience of being able to line up all of your testing and rehabilitation needs in one location will mean less time away from school or work, and healthcare providers—physicians, therapists, educators, athletic trainers and neuropsychologists—all working together to coordinate and manage care.
We’ve put together several guides about how to spot concussions and what to do when they occur. To download any of them for free, visit gwinnettsportsmed.com/resources.
Or if you want to learn more about the Concussion Institute, visit gwinnettsportsmed.com/concussion or call 678-312-7880. We will do our best to get you on the path to healing as quickly as possible, and often within a day of your call.