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A concussion occurs as the result of a traumatic injury to the head. Concussions can be caused by a motor vehicle accident, a fall, sports injury, or anytime that the head and upper body is violently shaken. Over the past few years, the St. Mary Trauma Department has seen a progressive increase in patients with concussions.

The majority of patients seek initial treatment for their head injury or potential concussion through our Emergency Department. Neurology, neurosurgery, or trauma may be involved with the care of a patient with a concussion, depending on the severity and other injuries.

If the patient is able to be discharged they may be referred to their primary care physician or a neurologist for follow-up.

If admitted, the patient usually is admitted to the trauma service, with consults to appropriate specialties including neurosurgery, neurology, and neuro-psychology.  Neuro-psych plays an important role in follow-up testing.

If a blow to your head has knocked you out or left you dazed or confused, you've had a concussion. It's more difficult to determine whether the blow has caused potentially serious bleeding or swelling in your skull. Signs and symptoms of these injuries may not appear until hours or days after the injury. There's always a chance that the injury is more severe than the immediate condition suggests. That is why it is so important to be vigilant about monitoring for the appearance of any of the danger signs of concussion following a blow, bump or jolt to the head.

Most people recover fully after a concussion.  How quickly that recovery is depends on how severe the concussion was, their age, how healthy they were before the concussion, and how well they take care of themselves after the injury.

Bleeding and other complications of minor head injuries appear to be more common in the elderly and in people taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin). Serious head injuries can result from even minor falls.

Rest is very important after a concussion because it allows time for the brain to heal -- and healing takes time. Only when your symptoms have reduced significantly, in consultation with your healthcare professional, should you gradually return to daily activities, such as work or school. If symptoms come back or new symptoms appear, you need more time to rest and recover.

Danger Signs in Children

Take your child to the emergency department right away if they received a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, and:

  • Have any of the danger signs for adults listed above.
  • Will not stop crying and cannot be consoled.
  • Will not nurse or eat.

Danger Signs in Adults

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form on the brain in a person with a concussion and crowd the brain against the skull. Contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you have any of the following danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body:

  • Headache that gets worse and does not go away.
  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination.
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea.
  • Slurred speech.

The people checking on you should take you to an emergency department right away if you:

  • Look very drowsy or cannot be awakened.
  • Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other.
  • Have convulsions or seizures.
  • Cannot recognize people or places.
  • Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated.
  • Have unusual behavior.
  • Lose consciousness (a brief loss of consciousness should be taken seriously and the person should be carefully monitored).

 **Information from the CDC