What exactly is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild brain injury that can affect the way your brain functions. It usually happens due to a hit to the head, neck, face, or even some other part of the body which causes your brain to move inside your skull. If this movement happens hard enough, the brain may get injured. This injury may change the way your brain and body function and feel.
symptoms of a concussion
Each person experiences a concussion differently and may have a variety of symptoms which may include:
|Physical Symptoms||Mental Symptoms||Emotional Symptoms||Sleep Symptoms|
Sensitivity to light & sound
Fogginess & difficulty thinking
Feeling slowed down
Difficulty with concentration and memory
Sleeping more or less than usual
Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
Just as concussion symptoms are individual so are recovery times. Most concussions heal quickly, however 30% of people continue to have symptoms longer than 4 weeks. Resting your brain and body as recommended by your healthcare provider will help you heal quicker. It is also important to remember that you can accidentally increase your recovery time by participating in too much activity too soon.
Activities during recovery
During the recovery process it is very important for you to rest your brain (cognitive rest) and your body (physical rest).
Stay away from activities that cause your heart rate to increase or make you sweat (gym class, sports, playing outside). If any physical activities you do participate in cause your symptoms to get worse you need to stop.
Participating in cognitive activities (school, homework, texting, playing video games, watching tv, reading) must be done at a ‘sub-symptom threshold’. In other words, you can do these activities if it does not make your symptoms worse.
Reading for 15 minutes causes a headache. Next time only read for 10 minutes then take a rest.
These activities usually do not require the brain to work as hard as the above mentioned activities.
Drawing or coloring, playing legos, playing cars, baking
The 24 hour rule
As your symptoms start to improve and you feel better it will be tempting to try to add activities back into your routine. It is important to follow the 24-hour rule as you are increasing your activities. You must be symptom free for 24 hours after completing an activity before your increase that activity (increase increments of 10-20 minutes).
Reading for 15 minute increments no longer causes a headache within the next 24 hours, increase to 25 minutes next time.
Strategies to help you recover
Contact a Physical Therapist!
Why? Because they are movement experts who understand the complexities of a concussion and will conduct specialized testing to develop a plan to get you back to doing what you love!
* Oculomotor Testing such as Pupil reaction
* Vestibular Testing to understand dizziness
* Balance Testing
* Coordination Testing
* Cervical Spine and TMJ Assessment
* Exercise Tolerance Testing
Conserve Brain Power!
- Prioritize daily activities and plan ahead to conserve mental energy
- Take breaks and complete activities in stages
- Create a non-distracting environment to limit background noise
Sleep = Brain Recovery!
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day
- Avoid naps during the day to maintain a regular sleep pattern
- Make your room a Sleep Only Zone
- Avoid screen time and caffeine before bed
Food = Brain Fuel!
- Healthy carbs are key - whole grains, fruits and veggies
- Stay hydrated and drink water throughout the day
- Eat a healthy snack between meals
- Daily relaxation can decrease anxiety and nervousness
- Learn the stressors that cause you to feel worse so you can avoid them
Return to School
After a concussion your brain needs to use all its energy to heal and you need to limit the mental energy you expend. This includes a gradual return to school. You, your doctor, your parents, and teachers can work together to adjust your school work, classroom environment, and homework load.
- Integrate core classes first (Math, Science, English)
- If symptoms come back during class ask to rest in a quiet area or go home if needed
- Alternate class attendance so you don’t miss the same class all the time
Avoid gym class/sports team participation until cleared by your doctor
Return to Sport
Before returning to sports and gym class, you should be fully participating in school and social activities. If you return to sports before your brain is ready you can slow down your recovery and increase your risk for another concussion!
- Work with your doctor and other healthcare providers to create a return-to-sport plan
- Slowly work up to full participation in your sport and make modifications when needed
- Listen to your body and share your symptoms with your coach, parents, and doctor