Concussion To-Do List

With football season in full swing, the discussion and focus on concussions only seems to grow. Of course football is not the only sport or activity that can cause a concussion, but it is certainly one of the most well-known. It is estimated that every year, nearly 3.8 million concussions are sustained by Americans of all ages. In fact during some years, more than half of those concussions are found in children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 18.

With the prevalence of concussions amongst children and young adults rising, it has never been more important to ensure that concussions are identified quickly and evaluation and treatment are implemented. To help each of us, regardless of age, get a better understanding of what to do in the event that a concussion occurs, two experts from Gwinnett Medical Center’s Concussion Institute, Adam Shunk, PhD., a neuropsychologist and David Schwartz, PhD., a neuropsychologist, provide insight on what to expect and how to take action.

Step One: Rule out a more serious injury. It is important to monitor a person after a head injury to rule out symptoms that could indicate a more serious injury. With a concussion there are some symptoms you can expect to see, these include:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Fogginess
  • Difficulty Balancing

Severe symptoms, like those listed below, or worsening symptoms are not common signs of a concussion and could indicate a more serious injury.
  • Worsening Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Confusion or Behavior Changes
  • Eye Disturbances (e.g., inactive pupils, unresponsive eyes)

If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical care promptly. The best place to start is the emergency room to ensure that care and evaluation are immediate since many of these symptoms can be signs of a concussion or a more severe brain injury.

Step Two: Get an expert opinion. Concussions vary for each individual, so it is important to have expert guidance on how to properly treat and manage a concussion in the safest and quickest way possible. Working with Neuropsychologists, like Dr. Shunk and Dr. Schwartz, will assure a thorough, customized treatment plan.

Before a treatment plan is provided, an assessment is done to test balance and ocular-motor skills (eye movement and responsiveness), neuro cognitive testing, an in-depth interview and sometimes even supervised exertion testing. Once the evaluation is complete, a personalized treatment plan will be prescribed. Each plan varies in length of time and can include multiple types of treatment, such as: vestibular therapy and headache management, as well as basic things, like appropriate sleep, hydration, proper nutrition, personal hygiene and activity.

Step Three: Forget the common myths. Unfortunately, many people still believe the common myths associated with concussions, including: not allowing sleep, minimizing stimulation and avoiding physical activity; however, these are not entirely accurate.

When it comes to caring for a concussion, ample rest is typically necessary for a few days; in fact, sleep supports the brains healing process. However, once symptoms improve, gradually transitioning back to normal activities as toleratedand even starting some light exercise can also help the healing process. While this certainly does not mean that intense physical activity is recommended, light, non-impact activity—as tolerated—is a great way to support the healing process.

Step Four: Prevent another concussion. Of course you don’t want another concussion to occur, but in the event that it does, it is better to be more prepared and more knowledgeable. Utilize educational resources from expert sources; this will help you to stay up-to-date on information ranging from symptoms, to diagnosis and treatment. 

Also, utilize baseline concussion screening as the best way to ensure faster, more accurate care in the event that a concussion occurs. This testing provides context, or a place to start from, so that post-concussion evaluation and testing is more precise.

In the event that you or your child sustains a concussion, there is specialized care available to you at Gwinnett Medical Center. The team at the Concussion Institute works together to provide you with a specialized treatment plan, educational resources and updating school(s) during recovery. You will receive the most comprehensive care possible. 

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