Tackling concussions head-on

After almost a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus, sports leagues on all levels are slowly opening their facilities for conditioning and game days. Even though sports will not look the same as they did last fall, those engaging in sporting competitions still run the risk of getting an injury, such as a bruised-up knee, broken bone or a concussion.

Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that are caused by an individual receiving a blow to head, or the body being struck so hard that the head makes quick back-and-forth movements.

When the brain is moved around rapidly, the fast movement can cause the chemicals in the brain to move around and cause changes in the chemical balance. The rapid movement can also cause the brain to stretch or even damage brain cells.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, amongst high school students, 94 percent described having a headache as the most common symptom of a concussion with dizziness being second and trouble concentrating being third. The lingering symptoms of a concussion – poor concentration, headache, dizziness, irritability – can often be managed with the right therapy or medications.

On average concussion symptoms dissipate over one to two weeks. We know that high school and college athletes take longer to recover from concussion than adult athletes. This is further complicated by their need to return to academic work in the classroom.

It is important to know that if concussion symptoms are not improving within two weeks then you should seek out the care of a physician specializing in concussion care, like a physiatrist (rehab specialist) or sports neurologist.

Concussions are not confined to sports-related injuries. You can also get a concussion from being in a motor vehicle accident, falling at home or from physical abuse.

The following are a few tips to avoiding concussions:

  • Wear the proper protective gear while playing sports or other recreational activities
  • Encourage safe play amongst athletes
  • Buckle your seat belt when in a vehicle
  • Wear a helmet when biking or riding a motorcycle, skateboard or scooter
  • Keep your home well-lit to avoid tripping and falling
  • Block stairways from small children

It was once thought that rest was the most important thing to do after a concussion, but now we know that after the first week slow gradual return to normal activity is recommended. Brains need exercise to recover as much as our bodies do.

If you or someone you know believes they have a concussion or is experiencing symptoms of a concussion, seek provider care immediately. UofL Health’s seven emergency departments are ready to treat you with the most quality, innovative and timely care.

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About Darryl Kaelin, M.D.

Dr. Darryl Kaelin is a physiatrist that specializes in neurorehabilitation with a focus on traumatic brain injury and stroke. He is nationally recognized for his work on the subjects of concussion, spasticity management, and neuropharmacology. Dr. Kaelin is the division chief of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at University of Louisville and practices with UofL Physicians at UofL Health – Frazier Rehab Institute. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, completing his specialty training at the Medical College of Virginia where he presided as their chief resident.

All posts by Darryl Kaelin, M.D.