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Get 'Brain Rest' After a Concussion

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P. Mark Li, MD, PhD

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Cartoon characters and sitcom stars act like blows to the head are pretty funny. But in reality, even a minor clunk to the head can jolt your brain.

“The skull is the brain’s armor; however even that strong bone can’t prevent brain injury from a sudden jolt,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) neurologic surgeon, P. Mark Li, MD, PhD, with LVPG Neurosurgery–1250 Cedar Crest. “Those sudden jolts – caused by heading a soccer ball, getting tackled in football or even tumbling in your house – may cause injuries within the brain we know as concussion.”

Concussion clues

It’s a mistake to think that a loss of consciousness is the only sign to worry about following a jolt to the head.

“You don’t need to lose consciousness to have a concussion,” Li says. “It is important for parents, coaches, family members or friends to pay attention to signs that something is just not right and their loved one needs medical attention.

Concussion symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems (such as double vision or tunnel vision)
  • Light sensitivity
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Irritability

Difficulty sleeping, trouble walking as well as extreme fatigue also are symptoms of concussion.

Brain rest

Once a concussion diagnosis is made, it’s critical to give your brain a break. “You need ‘brain rest’,” Li says. For students, that means at least one week with no school. Other restrictions for children and adults include no texting, computers, iPads and no reading – no brain work at all.

“It seems incredible that something like reading can physically tax the brain,” Li says. “But when your brain is suffering from concussion, even reading causes the brain to exert itself, which can prolong or even worsen symptoms.”

So give it a rest, and let the brain heal. For evaluation and management of concussion symptoms, Li recommends his colleague, Daniele Shollenberger, CRNP.