Concussions: What to Do and What Not to Do
a blog by My Emergency Room Abilene
Concussions: What to Do and What Not to Do
Did you know that there is no “standard” concussion? Unlike broken bones or torn ligaments, concussions are not a singular injury but instead exist on a spectrum of brain trauma.
Each concussion is unique and recovery time can vary widely from person to person. However, what we do know is that every concussion is caused by a blow to the head that forces the brain against the skull. And while most people think of concussions as something that occurs only in contact sports like football or rugby, they can happen in any sport—even golf!
Failure to properly manage your recovery from a concussion and you could be setting yourself up for long-term complications like memory loss or chronic headaches. Follow these tips to avoid post-concussion syndrome and get back out on the course sooner than later.
Rule #1: Rest is Key
The first rule of treating any concussion is rest—but you probably already knew that from experience. Researchers are still trying to figure out why concussions occur in the first place, but they do know that rest is the only way to give the brain the time it needs to heal. The general consensus is that once you’ve suffered a concussion, you should rest until your symptoms have completely healed.
Exactly how long that takes is a bit of a toss up. Every concussion is different, and how you manage the symptoms will depend on the severity of your injury. There are, however, two things you can do to speed up the healing process:
· Rest - This is non-negotiable. Avoid all activities that could cause your symptoms to worsen.
· Ease the pain- OTC painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen can help relieve any headaches you may be experiencing.
Rule #2: Watch Your Time Out
If you do have to sit out with a concussion, you should be aware of how long you need to avoid any activity that could cause your symptoms to worsen. The standard time-out for a concussion is 6 to 10 days, but it could be longer if your symptoms are particularly bad.
Nobody, especially your team, wants your concussion to worsen, so even if it means missing a few games the rest is well worth it. You don’t have to let a concussion sideline you for days though, check in with a doctor to find out when you can rejoin the field. If you’re able to rest at home, do so. If you’re working, you may want to check with your employer to see what they recommend.
Rule #3: Be Patient & Don’t Rush Recovery
We’ve all been there: You feel fine, so why not get back out on the course? The problem is that with concussions, it’s not how you feel right now that matters but how you’ll feel in a few days.
While you may feel perfectly fine now, you could develop more serious symptoms in a few days if you try to push yourself too hard. The danger of pushing yourself is that you could end up with post-concussion syndrome. This is a condition in which your symptoms get worse over time instead of getting better.
That’s why it’s important not to rush recovery: You want to give your brain enough time to heal properly.
Rule #4: Get a Checkup
This one may seem obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough. If you’ve been diagnosed with a concussion, you need a doctor to clear you to get back on the course again. If you consulted a team doctor or something similar don't be afraid to get a second opinion from a separate doctor, it will never hurt.
Unfortunately, many people try to rush the process and get themselves “good to go” before they’re actually ready to return. If you’ve been diagnosed with a concussion, don’t try to self-diagnose or “tough it out.” Get yourself checked out by a doctor to make sure you’re safe and get back on the course as soon as possible.
Rule #5: Light and Motion
Recently, researchers have discovered a correlation between concussions and circadian rhythms. In other words, your symptoms are more likely to worsen when your circadian rhythm is shifted (i.e., at night versus during the day).
It’s not clear why this happens, but what we do know is this: Light and motion have been shown to help manage the symptoms of a concussion. This means that you should avoid being out and about at night, especially if your concussion symptoms are really bad, so make sure you're sleeping instead.
Rule #6: Stay Hydrated
As with almost any injury, stay hydrated, especially if you’re experiencing headaches or dizziness. Dehydration can cause these symptoms to worsen, and they’re two of the most common symptoms associated with concussions.
That said, you should drink lots of water even if you don’t have a concussion. Staying hydrated is beneficial on many levels, including boosting brain function.
A concussion is a serious injury and requires proper medical attention. Although the injury is common in contact and collision sports, it is important to note that anyone can get a concussion, even if they are not participating in any sports.
The most important thing to do if you think you have a concussion is to rest, drink plenty of water, and see a doctor.