Student athletes. Elderly individuals who are unsteady on their feet. Any adult who has a car accident. What do they have in common?
Any of these individuals may have suffered a head injury.
If a person hits their head in a fall or a blast, in a car accident or on the sports field, they could suffer a concussion. A concussion is a brain injury that changes the way the brain works. You do not have to lose consciousness for it to be considered a concussion.
Immediately after a concussion, the person might have headaches, trouble with concentration or memory and even trouble with balance. Most of the time these effects are temporary, and symptoms go away without any treatment.
Rest and good nutrition are essential to help the brain heal. Adults usually recover within a week. The younger the person is, the longer it takes to recuperate. For example, a college-age student may take two weeks, but a child under the age of 10 may take 3-4 weeks to recover.
In school-age athletes, it is especially important that a physician clear the student before he or she is allowed to return to play. Thirty states, including Kentucky, have high school concussion regulations. A second head injury sustained before the brain is healed from the first is particularly damaging.
Though most people who suffer a concussion get better in a short period of time, 10 percent have effects that linger. This is called post-concussion syndrome, and it is diagnosed through testing of cognitive and language skills.
The symptoms that were present right after the injury also help determine if the person has post-concussion syndrome. Sufferers' symptoms may be physical, cognitive and behavioral.
Physical changes include increased sensitivity to light and noise, change in taste and smell, dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue. Cognitive changes include trouble with attention, concentration, memory, speed of processing, word-finding and other language problems. Depression, anxiety, aggression and irritability are some of the possible behavioral changes.
Ninety percent of individuals with post-concussion syndrome will fully recover within two years.
Individuals suffering from post-concussion syndrome may be referred to a speech-language pathologist to learn strategies to manage their language and memory problems. They can also learn ways to improve their skills. The speech-language pathologist can also help the individual change things in their environment at home, school and work so they can function better.