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What You Should Know About Concussions

Concussion is one of today’s most compelling topics in sports. We asked three Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) concussion experts provide important insights about this brain injury. Gabriel Lewullis, MD, LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Daniele A. Shollenberger, CRNP, Concussion program, Sports Medicine weigh in on our questions.

Q: What is a concussion? 

Lewullis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement may cause the brain to move in the skull, stretching and/or damaging brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.

The injury can result in a variety of symptoms across a spectrum of severity. Because you may experience a concussion differently than another person, it can lead to very different presentations to a parent, coach, athletic trainer or medical provider.

Q: If you have a concussion, are you more susceptible to future concussions?

Shollenberger: In certain situations, the brain may be more susceptible to another concussion because the threshold for the amount of force needed to injure the brain has been lowered. Some data indicates that the first 10 days after a concussion is when the brain is most vulnerable to another injury. This is why it is so important to recover fully from one concussion before participating in an activity that puts you at risk for another one.

If the symptoms that occur after the concussion are not improving or are worsening, then the patient should be evaluated by a provider who is experienced in the treatment and management of concussions.

Q: What is an ImPACT® test?

Maxted: ImPACT is a challenging, computer-based test that measures memory and reaction time. Prior to a sports season, an ImPACT test establishes an athlete’s “baseline” of how the brain functions under normal healthy conditions. If an athlete sustains a head injury, the test can be taken again. A physician compares the test scores to evaluate whether someone has sustained a concussion and how severe it may be. The test can be repeated during recovery from a concussion to help a physician determine when the concussion has fully resolved.

Concussion Symptoms

Vestibular impairment (balance-related) symptoms:

  • Imbalance
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea

Oculomotor deficits (vision-related) symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eyestrain
  • Difficulty reading or looking at electronics

Vestibular and oculomotor deficits require specialized treatment and therapies to retrain and recondition the brain. LVHN offers specialized concussion therapy at multiple locations throughout the region.

For information about LVHN’s Concussion and Head Trauma Program or to find a location, visit LVHN.org/concussion.