Spotting and Managing Concussions

Concussion patients should wait for full recovery before returning to sports or school

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Concussions can be scary and confusing, but usually they leave no long-term damage if they are treated quickly.

It is important to be able to recognize the signs of a concussion in order to get to a doctor for treatment immediately. Diagnosing and treating a concussion early on can help prevent permanent damage.

A recent report gave details about how to spot a concussion. The author of this report emphasized resting from sports, work and school until the patient's brain is healed in order to avoid another concussion.

"Talk to your doctor about how to identify a concussion."

Charles H. Tator, MD, PhD, wrote this report in order to provide information on identifying and managing concussions. He drew on several other studies to provide a complete guide to dealing with concussions.

"Educating the public about concussion is an important component of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention," said Dr. Tator. "Everyone who is engaged in sports should be aware of the importance of recognizing concussion."

A concussion occurs when a person experiences physical trauma to the head and brain. The exact cause of concussions is not known, but it could be that shaking the brain alters its chemical functions.

People who play sports are especially vulnerable to concussions, but everyone is at risk. Some research shows that women may be more prone to concussions than men.

Recognizing and dealing with a concussion quickly is very important because they can result in permanent damage and even death. Frequently, people who have concussions go back to work, school or play without healing properly which can further injure their brain.

This report emphasizes that a quick and accurate diagnosis is crucial to treating concussions. The author notes that some athletes will try to disregard their injury to keep playing, but people with concussions should see a physician immediately.

The physician will look for certain symptoms to decide if a patient has a concussion. This report lists several symptoms, including headache, dizziness, nausea, "seeing stars" and sometimes loss of consciousness. Tests like brain scans and blood tests are rarely effective for detecting concussions.

After a medical exam, if a patient has a concussion, the physician will decide how to proceed in treating the injury. Usually treatment includes physical and mental rest from all activities, including work, school and athletic activities.

Excessive physical movement and strain can slow down brain recovery.

Normally, patients will recover from a concussion within two weeks if it is their first.

The report suggests a six-step recovery process, beginning with complete bed rest and gradually working up to more intense exercise. The author recommends not returning to contact sports before receiving medical approval.

The report listed several consequences of concussions, including epilepsy, depression and anxiety. However, for minor concussions, those consequences are rare.

The author also discussed several ways to prevent concussions. For one, helmets should be worn during athletic activities. Additionally, people who play sports should learn to recognize concussion symptoms. To avoid secondary concussions, patients should not return to school, work or sports before fully recovering.

This report was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on July 22.

The author disclosed no funding sources for the article. Dr. Tator disclosed that he is a co-author of a concussion-related paper presented at a conference on concussions.

Review Date: 
July 31, 2013
Last Updated:
August 1, 2013