Concussion 101: ID, Diagnosis And Treatment

 By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

Today I would like to continue our Q&A discussion regarding concussions.

I hope your heads are ready for some more great info regarding a serious concern of both physically active populations, like athletes, and everyday moms, dads, coaches, teachers and do-it-yourselfers.

So, how do you identify if someone has a concussion?

Mechanism of action (MOA) is key. This is about how a person in injured.

If the person was hit in the head in some manner or hit with such a force that it caused the brain to shift violently (such as a car accident), they may have a concussion.

We diagnose concussions based on signs, symptoms and radiology (CT or MRI) scans. Regardless of whether a concussion is visible on a radiology scan, though, a concussion can still be diagnosed from these signs and symptoms:
  • Headache                  
  • Blurred Vision                      
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea                      
  • Vomiting                                
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ringing in the ears   
  • Seeing stars                          
  • Mental confusion
  • Light sensitivity        
  • Noise sensitivity                   
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Personality changes 
  • Can’t recall events prior to injury                                      
  • Can’t recall events after injury                               
  • Balance problems
  • Irritability                  
  • Sadness                                             
  • More emotional than usual             
  • Nervousness             
  • Fatigue                                  
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Numbness or tingling


This seems like a lot to remember. The key is to ask questions and if anything seems out of the normal or getting worse, seek medical care.

What does a certified athletic trainer (ATC) do with someone who has a concussion?
On the sidelines we are mandated by law, as are your coaches, that if we suspect a player has had a concussion, to pull him or her out of play immediately. And the athlete is to sit out the remainder of the event. An ATC or a physician, if one is present, will take the patient through a battery of special tests, assess for symptoms and signs, and will observe the athlete for changes. After 24 hours they are reevaluated by a physician or an ATC for clearance.

At Gwinnett Medical Center’s Concussion Institute, we have a protocol to return to play and we put that plan in action if we have continuous access to the student athlete (Continuous access is available for high school athletes at the high schools where GMC has placed ATCs). For an athlete with a suspected concussion to return to play, he or she must be cleared by a physician.

What should a parent do for a child with a concussion, or for him or herself if it’s an adult with a concussion?

In the event of a concussion diagnosis, there are several key things to do to aid recovery.
First, seek medical attention if the athlete/adult has not been evaluated. Gwinnett Medical Center has the Concussion Institute where anyone ages 12 and up can receive an appointment and proper concussion management, or you can visit your primary medical provider.

Second, continue to assess symptoms at home. Seek medical care if symptoms change or become more severe, including:
Pupils become unequal
Drowsiness becomes severe or cannot wake
Slurring speech
Repetitive vomiting
Headache worsens
Convulsions or seizures begin
Increase in personality changes, irritation or aggression
Confusion
Unusual behavior

Third, take time to allow the brain to heal:
Encourage proper rest. Do not wake the person every two hours: this will lengthen recovery. If you are concerned for them to sleep, seek medical care.
Limit technology use. No tablets, TV, video games, etc…
Limit strenuous exercise
Limit cognitive and psychomotor events. You may need to seek the counsel of your physician and teachers in order to limit school activities.
Eat well, including the proper nutrition of healthy fats, carbs and protein. Good hydration with water also helps healing.


At any time you have questions or concerns, call your physician or the Concussion Institute at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Alright folks, that’s a wrap for this post. Next time I will wrap up with return to play from concussions.

Stay healthy my friends.

For more info regarding concussions, see gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/concussion, or cdc.gov/concussions

Reference: Broglio, S. P., Cantu, R. C., Gioia, G. A., Guskiewicz, K. M., Kutcher, J., Palm, M., & McLeod, T. C. V. (2014). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: management of sport concussion. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(2), 245.

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