It’s not just a knock on the noggin
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to concussions, so let’s set the record straight: a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can change the way your brain normally functions.1 It’s not a bruise to the brain, and you don’t even have to hit your head or be hit directly in the head to get a concussion. A direct blow to your head can, of course, cause a concussion, but so can a blow to your body that causes your head to move rapidly. Whiplash is an example of an injury that can cause a concussion, for example.
How can you tell if someone has a concussion? The symptoms sometimes don’t appear until hours or days after the injury, and may be cognitive and/or emotional such as:
- Loss of consciousness
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Neck pain
- Balance problems
- Problems remembering and concentrating
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sadness or depression
- Blurred vision
If you suspect you or someone you love has a concussion, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately. Most of the time recovery is quick and simple, but your doctor will need to determine the severity of the concussion in order to decide if in-home observation by a family member is sufficient, or if an overnight stay in hospital is warranted.3
This isn’t the time to be brave or to brush off symptoms. Remember, a concussion is a brain injury and you need to treat it seriously.
Concussions often go undiagnosed in seniors, who are prone to falls and may fail to report incidents to doctors. That’s because they may experience symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and sadness and assume it’s just “old age” rather than telltale warning signs of a concussion. Always err on the side of caution.
The most important thing to do when you’ve had a concussion is to give your brain time to heal by allowing yourself to rest, both physically and mentally. Your doctor will probably tell you to avoid general physical exertion until you have no symptoms, and to limit activities that require thinking and concentration. That means no sports or vigorous activity, and no TV, reading, video games, or using a computer.4 Rest means rest!
You may be told to take time off work or school, or to take frequent breaks during the day if you have returned to your daily activities. Always make sure to check with your doctor to determine when it’s okay to resume your normal level of activity.
Sometimes concussions are unavoidable, but there are things you can do to make yourself safer in your home, car and during recreational activities:
- Always wear protective gear during sports and when cycling
- Wear your seat belt and make sure everyone else in the car is buckled up too
- Check your home regularly to make sure there are no tripping hazards, like loose carpet or piles of debris on the floor, and keep your rooms well lit
- If you’re a senior, exercise regularly to help improve your balance and prevent falls
For a quick review, try this online “Concussion IQ” test created by Coach.ca to see how well you now understand what a concussion is really all about. While geared towards those who play sports, there is still a lot of valuable information about recognizing what a concussion is and isn’t, and what to do if you suspect you or someone you love is concussed.
413359G CA/US (03/16)