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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Concussion (Traumatic Brain Injury)

What Should I Do if I Have a Concussion? continued...

The doctor may test coordination and reflexes, which are both functions of the central nervous system. The doctor may also order a CT scan or an MRI to rule out bleeding or other serious brain injury.

If hospitalization is not required, the doctor will provide instructions for recovery. Aspirin-free medications may be prescribed and you will be advised to take it easy. Experts recommend follow-up medical attention within 24 to 72 hours if symptoms worsen.

  • Take a break. If your concussion was sustained during athletic activity, stop play and sit it out. Your brain needs time to properly heal, so rest is key. Definitely do not resume play the same day. Athletes and children should be closely monitored by coaches upon resuming play. If you resume play too soon, you risk a greater chance of having a second concussion, which can compound the damage. The American Academy of Neurology has issued guidelines about resuming activities after a concussion.
  • Guard against repeat concussions. Repeat concussions cause cumulative effects on the brain. Successive concussions can have devastating consequences, including brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disabilities, or even death. Don't return to normal activities if you still have symptoms. Get a doctor's clearance so you can return to work or play with confidence.

Can I Prevent a Concussion?

By its very nature, a concussion is unexpected, so it is tough to prevent. But there are several common-sense precautions you can take to lessen the possibility of traumatic brain injury.

  • Wear protective equipment. Participation in high-contact, high-risk sports such as football, hockey, boxing, and soccer can increase the likelihood of a concussion. Skateboarding, snowboarding, horseback riding, and roller blading are also a threat to your brain's health. Wearing headgear, padding, and mouth and eye guards can help safeguard against traumatic head injuries. Wearing a bike helmet can lower the risk of traumatic head injury by 85%. Ensure that the equipment is properly fitted, well maintained, and worn consistently.
  • Drive and ride smart. Always wear a seatbelt, obey posted speed limits, and don't use drugs or alcohol, because they can impair reaction time.
  • Don't fight. Concussions are often sustained during an assault, and more males than females report traumatic head injuries.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on September 20, 2014
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