What You Need to Know About Concussions

Christopher Palmer, MD - UnityPoint Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


Concussion is an injury to, or disturbance in brain function, typically caused by a direct or indirect force to the head. It is a common injury that has emerged as a major health care concern in the US particularly as it relates to sports and mental health. The symptoms are often subtle and nonspecific, but the most common are both physical and cognitive, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, poor balance, blurred vision, convulsions, fatigue, light/noise sensitivity, amnesia or poor memory, disorientation, confusion, lethargy, irritability and inability to focus or feeling ‘foggy’.

There are many different tests and protocols used to help determine the severity of a concussion but there is no one-best or ‘consensus’ way to diagnose and treat these often-difficult cases. Physical and cognitive rest are the cornerstones of initial management. Athletes at all levels may often try to mask or understate their symptoms for fear of being held from competition. Return to play criteria remains one of the most challenging issues that those who deal with athletes continue to develop. Particularly with the young, immature brain where re-injury during the recovery phase of a concussion can have severe consequences, the trend of more conservative management and longer periods of recovery time before returning to strenuous activity, especially when it may involve contact, is recommended.

Most every sports team, program, or league now has various protocols in place to try to prevent and treat concussions. This is an evolving topic worthy of time, discussion and exploration. Please be aware that patients or athletes are often unaware of their injury and the partial list of symptoms noted above may occur late or again, be very subtle. Please do not hesitate UnityPoint Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine or UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care if someone you know is showing signs or symptoms for a concussion or should you have any concerns regarding this matter.

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