Concussions are the most common form of head injury caused by an impact or forceful motion of the head or other part of the body, resulting in rapid movement of the brain within the skull.
A concussion can happen to anyone at any time. Common causes include falls, motor vehicle crashes, and sports and recreational activities.
MYTH: If the person was not hit in the head or did not lose consciousness, they do not have a concussion.
FACT: A blow to the head is not the only way someone can sustain a concussion—a concussion may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, neck, or a blow elsewhere on the body with an ‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head. Concussions occur from blows to different parts of the body of varying magnitude. A relatively minor impact may result in a concussion, while a high-magnitude hit may not. There is therefore no way to know for certain whether a particular blow will lead to a concussion.
Any head injury needs to be taken seriously. Most concussions, managed appropriately, resolve without complications. On some occasion, concussion injuries can be more serious and result in long-term disabilities.
The real danger of most concussions occurs when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a person at increased risk for future concussions, prolonging their symptoms and potentially leading to serious complications.
Second Impact Syndrome is a rare but typically fatal injury that may result if a person sustains another concussion before their brain has healed.
MYTH: Concussions aren’t a big deal, and a person with a concussion or a suspected concussion doesn’t need to go to the Emergency Room.
FACT: If the person shows any of the Red Flag Symptoms call 911 IMMEDIATELY.
- Neck pain or tenderness
- Double vision
- Weakness or tingling/burning in arms or legs
- Severe or increasing headache
- Seizure or convulsion
- Loss of consciousness
- Deteriorating conscious state
- Increasingly restless, agitated, or combative
If there are no Red Flag symptoms:
- Notify an emergency contact person, parent or guardian
- Do not leave the person alone
- Continue to monitor for Red Flag and signs of a concussion
- Do not let the person return to the activity or sport
- Do not give the person any immediate medication
- Do not let the person leave alone
- Do not let the person drive or ride a bike
MYTH: A person with a potential concussion can return to sport, play, or normal activity the same day.
FACT: If a person has a suspected concussion, they should NOT return to sport or activity and should be seen by a medical professional and/or monitored for delayed symptoms for 48 hours.
A person with a suspected concussion should not be left alone initially. The person should NOT BE woken up, but should be monitored throughout the night for anything out of the ordinary. Only wake the person if you have concerns about the person’s breathing, changes in skin colour, or how they are sleeping. Call 911 if the person is slow to wake or shows any of the Red Flag symptoms. If sleeping normally, let them sleep to allow the brain to rest. Sleep is an important part of the recovery process.
If no signs or symptoms appear within the first 48 hours, the person can return to normal activities but should be monitored for several days. If no signs or symptoms appear, chances are that no concussion was sustained. If unsure, please see your medical professional for clearance.
Depending on the circumstance, the emergency contact person, parent, or guardian should take the person to a medical professional and/or monitored for delayed symptoms for 48 hours.
MYTH: Complete recovery from a concussion only takes 2 to 3 days.
FACT: Children and youth tend to experience a longer recovery period than adults. On average, an adult takes 7 to 10 days to recover, whereas children and youth may take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. Most concussion cases (about 85%) will fully recover within 3 months; however, some symptoms can last for months and have the potential to cause long-term difficulties.
MYTH: A person needs to stay in bed and rest for at least a week to recover from a concussion.
FACT: The recovery process for concussion begins with resting the brain for up to 2 days, followed by a gradual and well-managed return to activity. This is best done in collaboration with key individuals in the person’s life such as health care providers, family members (parent/partner/caregiver), friends, employers, teachers and school staff, coaches, etc.
Recovery from concussion spans the home and work/school/sport settings. It starts immediately following the concussion causing incident and ends when the person has gradually returned to normal activities including school, work, and physical activity.
A concussion can have a significant impact on someone’s physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. The recovery process involves balancing activity levels so that the person does not do too much or too little. It is a fluctuating process where the person can be doing well one day but not the next. Having had a previous concussion increases the chance a person will have a delayed recovery.
MYTH: There is nothing a person can do to prevent a concussion.
FACT: Although not all concussions can be prevented, there are steps you can take to decrease the risk of sustaining one or reducing the severity of a potential concussion.
Promote: Fair play
Behaviour and attitude have a major impact on concussion causing incidents. You can encourage fair play by modelling respect and sportsmanship in the presence of others.
Encourage: Support concussion reporting
People will often hide symptoms of concussion because they don’t want to fall behind or disappoint their parents, coaches, and/or teammates. Supporting a positive environment for reporting concussion symptoms sooner can make the biggest difference in preventing more serious concussion outcomes and associated risks.
Awareness: Educating yourself and others
Learning about concussions helps to understand how serious a concussion can be. It also provides the tools to recognize and report a concussion if suspected. An informed person is more likely to follow the guidelines during the recovery process.
FOR ADDITIONAL CONCUSSION GUIDELINES CHECK THE FOLLOWING LINKS:
Athletes Guidelines for Concussions
Coaches & Trainer Guidelines for Concussions
Concussion Recognition Tool
Parents & Caregivers Guidelines for Concussions
Return to Play Guidelines for Concussions
Pocket Guide for Concussions
NCPP Concussion Sports Training Module
See also Dr. Tyler Fletcher of Cobblestone Medicine Rehab for Baseline Concussion Testing