How are Concussions Treated?

August 17, 2016

No two patients are alike. Treatment for concussions should be individualized for each case.

One of the biggest myths is that in order for a concussion to occur, a patient needs to suffer loss of consciousness. However, up to 90 percent of people who sustain a concussion never experience loss of consciousness. Awareness is key and is the first line of defense for concussion patients.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when an impact jars the brain inside the skull. Having a concussion doesn’t mean you’ll never recover; in fact, many concussed patients never have another concussion and go on to live completely unaltered lives after treatment.

What are common concussion symptoms?

Concussion symptoms are often easy to miss. If you think you’re concussed or just don’t feel right after a traumatic impact, you should be evaluated for a concussion. It is often much more of a functional problem, so we look for more subtle findings, whether it’s eye movement disorders or balance issues. When those signs get missed, the concussion can go undiagnosed and symptoms can persist for weeks or even months.

While headaches are the most common symptom, concussion symptoms do not always involve a headache and can include a host of other signs. Patients often have primarily physical symptoms, but frequently a concussion can result in cognitive (mental) issues as well.

Physical symptoms

  • Dizziness
  • Balance issues
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Noise or light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Lethargy
  • Unequally sized pupils
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Sleep issues
    • Inability to fall asleep
    • Sleeping longer than usual
    • Sleeping less than usual

Cognitive (Mental) symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Feeling ‘in a fog’
  • Memory loss
  • Mood changes (anxiety/depression/irritability)
  • Personality changes

What are the treatments for concussions?

Most of the time, the primary course of treatment is cognitive and physical rest.

Cognitive Rest

When you don’t take a break and allow your brain to rest, you can delay the healing process.

We recommend limiting screen time, including televisions, computers, and other digital media. Patients are urged to get plenty of rest. Once symptoms start to improve, we work with each patient to develop a personalized return-to-activity (school/work/cognitive tasks) plan.

Physical Rest

Once you are tolerating the return-to-activity plan after cognitive rest as mentioned above, you can start slowly returning to physical activity with an individualized plan.

We utilize a return to play program that starts with light cardiovascular activity and goes through a 5 or 6 day progression of adding more challenging sport specific activities with increased physical stress as tolerated until you are back to full activities as tolerated.

Once you get through the cognitive and physical rest treatment, you will continue to feel better on your own with time. It is important to remember as you are recovering to take things one day at a time, not doing too many activities that provoke worsening symptoms while recovering. Repeated concussions or other head trauma without adequate healing time can result in lasting problems.

To schedule a consultation with our concussion specialists, call (585) 922-1212 or go online to find our locations and hours.

Categories: Sports Medicine
Topics: Concussions