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5 Things to Know About Concussions

Head injuries are serious business – even something as simple as getting bonked on the head during a hockey or football scrimmage can cause a concussion. Sports-related concussions have become a public health issue because they are so common and have a high potential for both short- and long-term consequences. In 2016, 64 percent of visits to hospital emergency departments among 10- to 18-year-olds were related to participation in sports, physical activity and recreation; more than half of those visits were for concussions or possible concussions.

The prevalence and seriousness of concussions – and the common questions that arise about how to prevent and treat them – impelled a group of local physicians and health-care professionals to build Concussion Nova Scotia. The website is full of resources for both patients and doctors; it has everything you need to know about preventing, recognizing, treating and managing this common head injury.

Here are five things you should know about concussions.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a brain injury that affects how your brain works. When shaken or jarred, the soft tissue of the brain can move around inside of the skull and knock into the bone, resulting in injury. While there are a variety of symptoms, there is no visible injury to the structure of the brain.

What are the common causes of a concussion?

Concussions are typically caused by a direct blow to the head, face or neck, or by an impact elsewhere on the body that transmits force to the head. When it comes to physical activity, there is a greater risk of concussion in full-contact sports where individuals moving at high speeds may collide. You can also get a concussion from a car or bike accident, or even from falling.

How are concussions diagnosed?

Concussions can be difficult to diagnose – symptoms and signs can change and evolve over time. A physician may ask questions about concussion and work/sport history, other recent injuries and perform a neurological exam. This may include things like testing the patients’ vision, balance, memory and ability to concentrate.

In most cases, tests like CT scans or MRIs may be important to assess for other skull or brain injuries, but don’t typically inform concussion diagnosis.

How long does it take to recover from a concussion?

How quickly someone recovers from a concussion depends on many factors, including the patient’s age, how severe the concussion was and how the patient takes care of themselves after the injury. The most important factor for concussion recovery is to rest the body and the brain.

What should I do if I think I have a concussion?

When in doubt, seek immediate medical attention. Many patients report experiencing dizziness or a headache for 24 to 72 hours, but there is always a chance that a concussion could develop into bleeding or a blood clot that can be life-threatening if not properly diagnosed.

To learn more about concussion prevention, management and resources, visit Concussion Nova Scotia’s website.

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