Concussion Discussion: All the Facts You Need to Know
Read about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
BY KATIE CAVENDER
Concussions can happen at home, at work, at school, on the field – really anywhere. Many people believe that concussions can heal properly without any treatment, and that’s not necessarily the case. We spoke with Daniele Shollenberger, CRNP, Program Director and Practice Leader of the Concussion and Head Trauma Program at Lehigh Valley Health Network, to answer some common concussion questions and provide guidance on what to do if a concussion is suspected.
What is a concussion?
Simply stated, a concussion is a brain injury that alters the way the brain functions. When a concussion occurs, there is a rapid onset of changes in your neurologic function and your brain cells begin to communicate in a disorderly manner.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
Concussion symptoms are grouped into four categories:
Physical – This includes headaches, dizziness, imbalance, visual changes, nausea and sensitivity to light or noise.
Cognitive – People may feel mentally foggy, slowed down, experience difficulty concentrating or experience difficulty remembering.
Sleep – Drowsiness, sleeping less than usual, sleeping more than usual or trouble falling asleep all can be symptoms of a concussion.
Emotional – Concussions can affect your emotions, including increased irritability, sadness and nervousness or cause you to feel more emotional than usual.
How is a concussion diagnosed?
A concussion will not show up on an imaging study – such as a CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) study – because a concussion doesn’t cause structural changes to the brain. Instead, a concussion causes functional disturbances in the brain. These disturbances can result in any of the symptoms listed above, including headaches, dizziness, sleep problems and concentration difficulties, as well as irritability, sadness or nervousness. A concussion diagnosis is made through a detailed examination with a health care provider trained in the management of concussions, along with a thorough review of a patient’s symptoms.
Should people with a concussion avoid screen time?
Your concussion specialist will provide individualized advice based on your concussion symptoms. It’s common for concussion specialists to provide restrictions and modifications to screen time. For example, you may be able to watch TV as long as you close your eyes during commercials. This helps give breaks to your brain. With cellphones or computers, it’s typical to suggest a break every 20 to 30 minutes.
Does one concussion make you more susceptible to future concussions?
Not receiving appropriate concussion treatment does increase the risk for subsequent concussions. It’s not uncommon for us to see patients who have a history of concussions but have never received concussion treatment.
The most important thing you can do for your brain is protect it from another injury, especially during concussion treatment or recovery. This means no sports, no gym class, possibly restrictions at work or even with normal daily activities.
Do concussions require treatment?
Concussions are serious and require appropriate treatment. If someone has suffered a blow to the head and has any ongoing symptoms, they should seek evaluation. Find a location near you at one of our LVPG Concussion and Head Trauma locations.
A concussion specialist who is a licensed health care provider who has been trained in the clinical management of concussion. Our concussion specialists will perform a detailed and focused evaluation to assess your concussion. Based on that, an individualized plan of care will be developed for treatment. You will be treated by a multidisciplinary team with specialized concussion training including concussion specialists and neuro-optometrists. Plans of care can include vestibular (balance) therapy, cognitive (thinking and memory) therapy, cervical spine therapy and vision therapy directed by our neuro-optometrists.
If you think you may have a concussion, call 888-402-LVHN to schedule an appointment.