A concussion is the term used to describe an injury to the brain from an impact or blow to the head. Examples of significant blunt trauma to the head include a fall, car accident, being struck on the head with an object such as a base ball or tree limb. A concussion alone is not a life threatening injury. Problems resulting from a concussion however have the potential to become serious. A concussion does not include those injuries that cause bleeding under the skull or into the brain.
Concussions are classified as two types; mild and severe. A mild concussion may involve feeling dazed or a brief loss of consciousness described as being “knocked out” after a blow to the head. A severe concussion can involves a longer loss of consciousness with a prolonged return to normal awareness. You should consult a doctor (minimum by telephone) for treatment of a mild concussion.
These symptoms are indicative of a mild concussion:
- No loss of consciousness associated with the blow to the head.
- Mild dizziness or nausea after injury.
- Only momentary loss of memory of the event.
- Mild headache without visual disturbances.
You should be able to tell the doctor what injury occurred and details such as whether or not the person was unconscious and for how long. Your doctor may prescribe bed rest, fluids and pain relievers. Diagnostic tests such as x-ray or CT scan may be needed to further evaluate the injury. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment.
It is not necessary to keep the person who has a concussion awake. However, you should be able to awaken them in a manner normal for them. If they cannot be awakened or it is difficult to, this may be a sign of more severe injury. Commonly a hematoma (‘goose egg”) can occur following a mild concussion. This is a bruise under the scalp (not skull) and usually isn’t serious. Applying a cold pack for 20-30 minutes will help this to go away and provide some pain relief. Can be repeated every 2-3 hours.
If a person has been struck on the head and has any one or more of the following; emergency treatment should be sought.
1. A child who has been struck on the head loses consciousness.
2. Loss of consciousness lasting longer than two minutes
3. Head trauma sustained from a fall more than the height of the person or a hard fall onto a hard surface (such as concrete)
4. Head trauma from a fall involving the head striking an object that results in bleeding or laceration.
5. A person who may or may not have briefly loss consciousness, is then awake, but loses consciousness again.
6. Confusion that is not cleared up quickly.
7. Vomiting more than one time. If the person is unconscious; roll them onto their side so they do not choke.
8. Amnesia that does not go away.
9. Severe headache.
10. Inability to walk.
11. Extreme weakness or drowsiness.
- Perseverating (repeating same thing over and over)
- Someone taking blood thinner such as Coumadin and receives a significant blow to the head.
- A person who has received a blow to the head and their breathing is compromised.
- Signs of shock (clammy skin, anxiety, difficulty breathing, and chest pain) are present.
- If an injury is severe or the person fails to regain consciousness after two minutes, do NOT move the person.
Call 911 immediately for help. If you are in doubt; take the person to the emergency department.