The Truth About Concussions
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What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that causes temporary impairment to brain function. Injury is often the result of a direct hit to the head, but what many people don’t realize is that is can also occur with a fall or hit that causes a jolt to the body, with no head contact. Basically, any sort of impact that can cause the brain to move inside the skull can result in a concussion.
Signs and Symptoms.
Did you know that 90% of people who sustain a concussion will not lose consciousness? The signs of a concussion are often quite subtle and can easily be missed. Sometimes these symptoms may not appear until hours or even days later, making them harder to connect to the injury. Different people will have different symptoms associated with their concussions but generally there are 4 main categories that symptoms will fall under.
1. Physical Symptoms
- Light sensitivity
- Noise sensitivity
- Slurred speech
- Vision changes
- Neck pain/whiplash
2. Cognitive symptoms
- Difficulty with attention span
- Memory problems
- Loss of focus
- Difficulty multi-tasking
3. Sleep symptoms
- Sleeping more than usual
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sleeping less than usual
4. Emotional Symptoms
- Panic attacks
- Feeling generally more emotional
This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, and it is always important to report any changes to your healthcare provider.
If you notice red flag signs or symptoms that may indicate something more serious has occurred such as;
- 1 pupil larger than the other
- Loss of consciousness
- Slurred speech, weakness and numbness
- Repeated nausea and vomiting
Then it is important to seek immediate emergency care.
I think I have a concussion… now what?
First of all, with any suspected concussion you must immediately remove yourself from sports, school or work. It is also important to see a licensed healthcare practitioner for a full assessment.
Rest is important… but not too much! Current research suggests that 24-48 hours of full rest (no screens) is important, followed by a controlled and gradual return to daily activities.
If there are no red flag symptoms then sleep is important. Sleep for as long as your body needs to in order to recover and take naps if you need.
3. EAT WELL
Nutrition is also key! Get your fruits and veggies, and an abundance of healthy fats. It is important that you continue to eat to give your body the nutrients it needs to heal your brain.
It is always important to get plenty of water, but in times of stress and healing such as in the acute phases of a concussion, it becomes even more important.
Ensure that you follow the guided return to work/play/school protocols so that you are fully healed before returning to your activities. These are often available through your sports association, or your school/workplace may have a system in place as well.
Avoid taking alcohol or pharmaceuticals as these can often make you feel worse or mask the true extent of your symptoms.
Avoid prolonged mental work, screens and moderate to intense physical activity, until you have been cleared to partake in these activities.
How long will I be out of sport/work for?
Most people who suffer a concussion will be symptoms free within 2 weeks, but some people will take longer to heal or will suffer with post-concussion syndrome. It is important that you do not ignore your symptoms or continue to push through with daily activities despite not feeling well. This will only delay your recovery and prevent your brain from healing fully.
Is there anything I can take to help my brain heal?
Yes, there are several supplements that have been shown to help relieve symptoms or enhance healing in a concussion. Creatine, magnesium and fish oil all have some evidence behind them and are always my go-to supplements. There are also anti-inflammatory herbs that have shown some benefit. Be cautious of the multi-ingredient supplements that are advertised specifically for concussions, many of these have great ingredients, but not at an effective dose. There are many other herbs, supplements and nutritional interventions that can be helpful for healing and addressing specific symptoms. A naturopathic doctor will tell you which supplements and doses are best for you, so it is always important to discuss your case with your ND before taking anything new.
References and Resources