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Concussion FAQs


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Get answers to our patients’ most frequently asked questions about concussions.

What is a concussion? Page 1

A concussion is a medical diagnosis that is caused by a sudden force to the head or body (that is then transmitted to the head), such as a bump, blow, or jolt.

Our brains are surrounded by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that generally prevents it from shifting in your skull. However, when a sudden force is applied to your head or body, the weight and momentum of your brain can cause it to temporarily displace the CSF, causing the brain to impact the inside of your skull. This impact causes a concussion injury. Medical professionals also refer to concussions as a "mild traumatic brain injury," or "mTBI."

A concussion injury can temporarily alter the way your brain functions, and may cause mood swings, headaches, or lapses in memory, judgment, concentration, balance, or coordination. Concussions can occur with or without a loss of consciousness, and symptoms may last for a few weeks or months.

Like any other injury, a concussion needs time and rest to heal.

Are concussions life-threatening? Page 1

Science is still learning about the long-term effects, but concussions are usually not life-threatening if treated properly.

Concussions become dangerous when they are not treated, or when a person experiences multiple concussions. Recent research has connected the deaths of many pro football players and other athletes that have been found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) (a disease that causes degeneration of the brain) only found at autopsy. Though science is still learning about CTE, this disease is most likely caused by multiple, repeated concussions — a problem that is preventable through the application of immediate removal from play, proper sports concussion protocols and management.

Second impact syndrome (SIS) is another life-threatening condition relating to concussions, though extremely rare. SIS occurs when a concussed brain receives a second concussion before the first one has healed (healing can range anywhere from minutes to weeks after the first concussion), causing a rapid swelling of the brain. This limits blood flow and can cause cerebral edema (fluid in the brain) and brain herniation (squeezing of the brain). (Source: National Institutes of Health)

Most recover within one to two weeks following a concussion and best treatment in most cases is rest and recovery as prescribed by a doctor trained in the management of concussions.

What should I do if I think I have a concussion? Page 1
Do you have to have a loss of consciousness to have a concussion? Page 1
How do I recover from a concussion? Page 1
I am a young athlete. How long must I stay out of play? Page 1
Where should I go to get checked out and cleared? Page 1
Are concussions common? Page 1
Are men or women more likely to get concussions? Page 1
Are there laws governing concussions? Page 1

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