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The Dangers of a Concussion

The Dangers of a Concussion

It doesn’t take a significant degree of trauma — or a loss of consciousness — to sustain a concussion, as millions of people in the United States find out each year after they’ve been hurt in a car crash, jostled by an accidental fall, or injured in the game.  

As sports medicine specialists, our team of board-certified orthopedists evaluate and treat concussion injuries in patients of all ages at Sports Medicine Oregon in Tigard and Wilsonville, Oregon. Here’s why prompt, proper treatment is so important, and how insufficient TBI care can pose real risks.  

How a concussion affects your brain

When an external force causes your brain to shift inside your skull, it stretches and bruises the organ’s nerves and blood vessels, creating chemical changes that lead to temporary abnormal brain function. It can also stretch and damage your brain cells. 

Concussions are considered “mild” traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) because they usually aren’t life-threatening. Even so, their effects can be serious. While some symptoms, like headache and nausea, emerge within minutes, others may not appear for hours. A TBI can cause:

Concussion symptoms can also change as the days go by, and new ones may appear if the brain is stressed by overuse during recovery. With proper care, most concussions resolve within two to three weeks

Proper concussion care is important 

Concussion treatment involves physical and mental rest. This means relaxing and sleeping more than normal, but it doesn’t mean total rest. Why? Too much rest can worsen your TBI symptoms, prolong your recovery, and leave you more sensitive to rebound symptoms when you resume your usual activities.   

After an initial period of total rest, you can expect to restart your activities slowly, limiting anything that seems to trigger your symptoms. Activities that may prompt you to “back off and relax” include: 

As your TBI symptoms improve, you can gradually add more activities into your day, and spend more time doing those activities before you need rest. 

The potential dangers of a concussion

A concussion is always serious, but the prognosis is generally positive when it’s diagnosed promptly and managed properly. Even so, anything that undermines proper concussion care can lead to an increased risk of adverse effects and complications. 

 Most of the dangers associated with a TBI stem from the following:   

1. Delayed or missed diagnosis

A delayed or missed TBI diagnosis means delayed — or non-existent — treatment and a prolonged recovery. Instead of getting better in two or three weeks, it might take a month or longer before you feel better. 

 And if you continue your normal activities in the meantime, the increased brain strain can aggravate your symptoms and put you at risk of long-term brain function issues.  

2. Improper recovery management

Persistent TBI symptoms and prolonged healing are also consequences of improper concussion recovery management, but they’re not the only dangers of ignoring doctor’s orders. When you get back to your normal routine before your brain is ready, you increase your chances of experiencing:

 Once you’ve had a concussion, your risk of having another one is three to five times greater than someone who’s never had one. That risk is highest among athletes who return to play before a concussion has healed.  

 While the damage from a single concussion isn’t usually permanent, people who sustain multiple concussions over time may develop permanent structural brain changes.

3. Lack of critical follow-up care

Lack of follow-up care for persistent or worsening symptoms at any stage of recovery can expose you to life-threatening dangers or increase your risk of permanent brain damage. 

Worsening TBI symptoms — or a severe symptom like a seizure — in the early hours and days after a head injury can be a sign of a brain bleed or swelling that requires emergency care. 

Likewise, symptoms that re-emerge down the line shouldn’t be brushed to the side. They could indicate a long-lasting impairment that elevates your risk of future neurological decline without proper care. 

Reducing the risk of TBI complications

Minimizing your risk of complications after a concussion comes down to three things: Early TBI diagnosis, proper recovery management, and decisive follow-up care. Our team can help with every aspect of your care — call or click to schedule a visit at Sports Medicine Oregon in Tigard or Wilsonville, Oregon, today.

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