By- Dr. Joan Pellegrini
Although anyone at any age can get a concussion, this time of year is particularly important because of the start of the sports season in the schools. A concussion happens when there is a blow to the head that causes either a loss of consciousness, a brief lapse of memory, or a feeling of dizziness or being dazed. Most of us do not consider concussions to be serious and therefore we shrug it off and encourage the athlete to get back on the field quickly. Unfortunately, a concussion is a form of brain injury and this is why it is so important to avoid concussions. People who have a concussion are at an increased risk of having seizures over the next five years. Also, multiple concussions can lead to learning disabilities and some loss of cognition. There is even a theory that multiple concussions can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Post-concussive syndrome is poorly understood. It is also very difficult to predict. This is a complex disorder that may cause headache and dizziness for weeks or months. There may also be mood or personality changes, diminished concentration, fatigue, nausea, balance issues, and loss of appetite. It is easy to see why this syndrome could cause serious problems with school, work, or family life.
The most important thing about concussions is to prevent them. Many high risk sports require helmets. However, there are several sports with high risk that do not require helmets such as soccer and field hockey. Once you or your child suffers a concussion, it then becomes extremely important to avoid another concussion. Certainly, the brain needs time to heal. However, medical professions are uncertain how long the injury may take to heal. Currently, the recommendation is to avoid risky behavior until all symptoms have completely resolved. This may mean keeping your child out of the sport for several weeks or more. If your child had a concussion and then returns to the sport after a time of healing, it is important for the coach to look for signs of incomplete healing such as slow response times, balance issues, etc.
If you suspect that your or a family member may be suffering from post-concussive syndrome, your family physician can refer you to a specialist that deals with brain injury. This physician may even refer to very specialized physicians that deal specifically with the neuropsychiatric complications of brain injury.
By- Dr. Joan Pellegrini
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