With football season upon us, concussions are back in the news. But you don’t have to be an athlete to have a concussion. In fact, you don’t even need to hit your head.

A concussion can happen whenever your brain is shaken violently, or with a sudden deceleration without any contact, such as whiplash. It can happen after a fall, in a car accident, or in an explosion.

Know the symptoms

Here are the top 10 signs of a concussion:

  1. Headaches or pressure in your head
  2. Confusion and foggy thinking
  3. Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or “seeing stars”
  4. Nausea
  5. Fatigue and tiredness
  6. Straining your eyes to see
  7. High sensitivity to light and noise
  8. Inability to balance
  9. Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  10. Trouble finding the right words

Other symptoms include forgetting the event that caused your head injury, temporary loss of consciousness, blurred vision, ears ringing, vomiting, and slurred speech.

What happened to me?

When your brain is struck, it swells and nerve cells disconnect, disrupting how the brain works. This is why you might experience confusion, fatigue, and unusual vision. Your brain doesn’t work as it should. When your thinking is fuzzy and you can’t concentrate, it’s even harder to know what to do.

These other symptoms may come and go as the result of a concussion:

  • Memory lapses
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability or other personality changes
  • Psychological problems, nervousness, and depression
  • Problems with sight, taste, and smell

After a head injury

If you have concussion symptoms after a collision, especially vomiting, severe headache, slurred speech, or seizures, you should go to the Emergency Department for evaluation.

See a concussion specialist either right away or within seven to 10 days if symptoms continue. Take only Tylenol for headache pain for at least 72 hours after a concussion.

Give yourself time to recover

If the doctor confirms you have a concussion, he or she will work with you on a treatment plan.

You may be given tests to measure your mental function. In some cases, doctors use these tests, along with their clinical judgment, to help get you back to your activities safely.

Your doctor may recommend that you rest your brain, and:

  • Limit how much you read, write, study, watch TV, or play video games.
  • Do less physical activity, exercise, or chores.
  • Stay home from work or school.

Most people with concussions get better in less than a month, but others take several months or longer.

While you are recovering, it’s useful to write down how you feel each day, how often symptoms occur, and when they occur. This will let you and your doctor easily see your progress and solve any issues.

Stay on the sidelines

Athletes who experience a second concussion before the first is healed risk second impact syndrome. This is a rapid swelling of the brain, which can have devastating effects, including death. This is why they must wait until they are cleared by a doctor before they return to sports.

A clinic led by physician specialists

Allegheny Health Network Concussion Clinic is one of the few physician-led concussion programs in western Pennsylvania. Here, skilled doctors and therapists get to the bottom of troubling symptoms and develop a personalized plan of therapy so patients can get well and return to their lives.

Call 412-359-3895 for an appointment with an AHN concussion specialist.