I DIDN'T LOSE CONSCIOUSNESS, COULD I STILL HAVE SUFFERED A CONCUSSION?
Absolutely. It is a prevalent myth that a concussion is synonymous with losing consciousness or blacking out. Anytime your body is exposed to enough force to cause symptoms like dizziness or feeling dazed and confused, you may have suffered a concussion. It is essential to err on the side of caution when dealing with mild traumatic brain injuries; the consequences can be much more severe than mismanaging an injury like a sprained ankle or broken bone.
CAN YOU GET A CONCUSSION IF YOU DON'T PLAY CONTACT SPORTS?
Yes! It is another common myth that only football players or hockey players can suffer a concussion. Any force strong enough to jostle the brain, whether it’s a car accident, hitting your head getting out of the car, or slipping on the ice and jostling your head can cause a concussion. Of course, the mechanism of injury is an integral part of making a diagnosis, but you don’t have to be an NFL linebacker to be exposed to the risk of getting a concussion.
BUT MY CHILD WEARS A HELMET! SHOULDN’T THEY BE PROTECTED?
Helmets are beneficial for preventing serious injuries such as skull fractures, however, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of helmets decreases the incidence of concussions. There is some suggestion that the use of helmets gives players false confidence in using their head to hit/tackle which can actually increase the risk of injuries to the head and neck. Current research is demonstrating that there is more value in protecting the neck to prevent a concussion than relying on a helmet.
HOW LONG BEFORE I CAN GET BACK TO PLAYING SPORTS?
This answer is complicated because there are so many variables involved, and the decision to return to any sport should be managed with a health care professional who is well-trained in concussion management. No one should return to playing sports until they have followed the return to work/school protocols. Due to the period of vulnerability that your brain enters following a concussive incident, even if you are asymptomatic you should wait 14 days before returning to contact sports. In fact, during the first two weeks you should avoid any environment where there could be jostling or the risk of contact as your brain is extremely vulnerable to re-injury.
WHY AM I SO TIRED ALL THE TIME, BUT MY QUALITY OF SLEEP IS SO POOR?
Think of your brain as a battery. When you have a concussion, you have, in effect, drained this battery. Just like when you drain your phone battery, for instance, it takes time to recharge to its full capacity. Unlike a phone, we don’t have a handy outlet that we can plug ourselves into to help our brain recharge while we continue to use it.
Our brains will eventually self-charge, but this is a process that takes a lot of time. When we consider what your brain’s job is, it has a lot of things it needs to do to keep you functioning! Your brain uses 20-30% of the energy your body produces on any given day, and a concussion zaps the amount of energy available. This is why fatigue, drowsiness, and brain fog can be so common after head injuries.
The biggest problem with recovering properly from a concussion is that we don’t tend to rest our brains adequately. It’s confusing to consider what it means to rest your brain, but mostly this means letting your brain do its most basic jobs and not using it for anything else. No reading, computer work, driving, watching movies, or texting on your phone. It’s also important to avoid overly stimulating environments or situations in which you might be in a jostling crowd. Running your body is sort of like running a background app on your phone; it utilizes a lot of energy. When concussed and continuing with your usual work routine, or going right back to the classroom means that you are essentially running a brain on low power.
IS IT SAFE FOR MY CHILD TO BE PLAYING SPORTS AT ALL?
The benefits of kids playing sports far outweigh potential concerns. The trick is to educate yourself so that if your child does unfortunately suffer from a concussion, you know what to do. If a concussive event is managed correctly from the get-go, 80% of the time the recovery has no long-term consequences. It can be scary to talk about brain injuries and how serious they can be, but it all comes down to how the injury is managed. Our goal is to educate parents, coaches, trainers, teachers, and health care practitioners so that anytime a child has a head injury, whether through colliding with another player on the field, or falling off the jungle gym in the playground, immediate action can be taken. Knowing what to do takes away a lot of the uncertainty and stress around the potential risks a child may face playing sports.
I HAD A CONCUSSION A WHILE AGO, BUT I CONTINUE TO SUFFER WITH SYMPTOMS. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Post-concussion syndrome affects 10-20% of people who have sustained a concussion. These situations are much trickier to resolve and should always be managed with a professional who has expertise in chronic concussion management. There are five main reasons why people continue to suffer symptoms for months, possibly years after a concussion.
- Abnormal blood flow
- Visual/vestibular problems
- An underlying neck injury
- Psychological problems
If you are still suffering the aftermath of a concussion from many years ago, the number one thing is to allow your brain to recover, so REST! Seek out a practitioner who specializes in chronic concussion management, as longer-term injuries are much more complex and usually require a more multi-faceted approach. Literature suggests that if you did not follow the appropriate return-to-learn/work steps in the acute phase of your injury, a mandatory 1-2 week rest period must be enforced.
Click to learn more about the 7 Steps for Managing a Concussion or more about concussions.