What is a concussion?
A concussion is an injury that affects the brain following direct or indirect forces to the head. The disturbance of normal brain function is related to a change in the metabolic processes of the brain rather than an injury to the actual structure of the brain. The metabolic disturbance does not show up during neuroimaging (X-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc.), which is one of the reasons neuroimaging studies are not always completed, or necessary, following a concussion. Even a “ding”, “getting your bell rung”, or what seems a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious.
It is important to understand that each concussion is different and must be diagnosed and treated on a case-by-case basis. Once a participant has been diagnosed with a concussion they will be immediately prohibited from participating in any physical activity. The amount of time a participant will be prohibited from play is based on the length and duration of concussion symptoms as well as the recommendation of the medical provider managing their care.
Concussion signs & symptoms
Most people with a concussion recover quickly and fully. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens.
Common signs and symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:
|Headache||Visual Problems||Feeling “fogging”||Irritability||Sleeping More|
|Nausea/Vomiting||Sensitivity to Light||Feeling slowed down||Anxious||Sleeping Less|
|Fatigue||Sensitivity to Noise||Difficulty Remembering||More Emotional||Drowsiness|
|Dizziness||Numbness/Tingling||Difficulty Concentrating||Sadness||Trouble Falling Asleep|
Some of these signs and symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for hours or days after injury, or until the person starts resuming their everyday life and more demands are placed upon them. Sometimes, people do not recognize or admit that they are having problems.
Concussion danger signs
|Persistent or Worsening Headache||Very Drowsy, or Cannot be Awakened||Increasing Confusion or Irritability|
|Seizures/ Loss of Concentration||Repeated Vomiting||Not Recognizing Familiar People/Places|
|Neck Pain||Strange or Unusual Behavior Changes||Slurred Speech|
|Weakness/Numbness in Extremities||Significant Irritability||Less Responsive than Usual|
Returning to sports & activity
- Step 1: Remove Participants displaying concussion like symptoms or having sustained a suspected concussion MUST be removed from play immediately. Participants may not return to play until they have been evaluated by a recreation athletic trainer or other qualified healthcare professional.
- Step 2: Report Schedule a follow-up assessment with a recreation athletic trainer within 24-72 hours. There is no charge for this follow-up assessment. The incident MUST be documented by the safety officer(s) and by the recreation athletic trainer.
- Step 3: Clearance Obtain written medical clearance from a qualified healthcare provider stating you are eligible to return to play.
- Written medical clearance MUST be submitted to the Recreation Athletic Training Room located in room #1006 of the RAC, faxed to 703- 993-2510, or dropped in the Recreation Athletic Training mailbox located in the RAC Lobby, across from the front desk.
- Step 4: RTP Progression The participant MUST follow the return to play progression outlined by the Recreation Athletic Trainer.
- Step 5: Verification Participants may not return to play until they have received a confirmation from the Recreation Athletic Trainer stating they have received the participant’s paperwork and you are cleared to return to play.
Returning to school
In most cases, a concussion will only transiently limit a student’s participant in school; however, in some cases, a concussion can affect multiple aspects of a student’s ability to participate, learn, and preform well in school. In turn, the experience of learning and engaging in academic activities that require concentration can cause a student’s concussion symptoms to reappear or worsen. The concept of resting the brain is important and it is recommendation to limit brain exertion with activities such as thinking, learning, memorizing, reading, texting, computer time, and watching TV for at least the first 24-48 hours following a concussion. A gradual return to cognitive activities, if it doesn’t make things worse, is the best approach.
If a participant is having difficulties focusing or being able to fulfill their academic responsibilities due to concussion symptoms, the participant should contact their healthcare provider to set-up an appointment to get academic accommodation. If their healthcare provider feels the participant needs academic accommodations, the participant can contact George Mason’s Office of Disability Services (ODS) to set-up an appointment to create a customized plan for accommodations.
Recovery from concussion
After the initial 24-hour period, limit over-the-counter medications to 2-3 doses per week. Until your appointment with a healthcare professional, you should avoid activities that could pose risk for head injury. However, prolonging rest and avoiding normal day-to-day activities can lead to the development of additional symptoms and therefore it is recommended the you ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A REGULATED SCHEDULE, as soon as possible:
- Diet: Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day is important, even if three meals are not typically eaten.
- Hydration: It is important to stay well hydrated.
- Sleep: Stick to a strict schedule, with a regular bedtime and wake-up time. It is recommended to obtain 7-9 hours each night, with limited naps of no more than 30 minutes. It is not advised or necessary to wake up every hour after a concussion.
- Physical Activity: It is beneficial to take walks and/or engage in light non-contact physical activities, following the injury. Once you are seen by a healthcare professional, additional recommendations will be discussed.
- Stress: Try to reduce additional stress, nervousness, and anxiety by limiting focus on the injury and symptoms. Staying in a dark room or being overly withdrawn should be also be avoided.
Brain injury safety tips and prevention
While there is not any protective equipment available to prevent concussion there are strategies that lower your risk.
The strategies to decrease the chance of concussion include:
- Using proper technique at all times.
- Practicing good sportsmanship at all times.
- Eating well and drinking plenty of water before, during, and after activity.
- Stop playing right away if you think you have a concussion.
- Talk to an athletic trainer or coach if you think you or a teammate has a concussion.
- Do not return to play until after you are given the ok by a medical professional.
Want to learn more?
For more information about concussions, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.