Keys to Recognizing and Treating Concussions

Jeffrey Mjaanes, MD, and other specialists from the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic will present a free program about concussions on Sept. 29 at Rush.

By Jeffrey Mjaanes, MD

A concussion occurs when there is direct or indirect trauma to the brain that results in a functional, but not structural, injury. Not every bump to the head results in a concussion but when an athlete suffers trauma to the head and then manifests symptoms such as headache, confusion, dizziness, memory loss, mood swings and sleep disturbances, a concussion is likely present.

Concussions are a relatively common injury seen in athletes of all ages involved in contact sports. It is estimated that over 300,000 traumatic brain injuries occur each year. Children and adolescents account for almost half of all brain injuries, take a longer time for their symptoms to clear and are at increased risk of complications from a concussion. The highest risk sport is football, but girls’ soccer has the second-highest incidence, followed by boys’ soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Concussions can also occur in recreational activities such as cycling or skiing.

Most concussions last one to two weeks but often take longer to resolve in children. Athletes younger than 21 years of age are at increased risk for complications from concussion, including second impact syndrome and post-concussive syndrome. Second impact syndrome is when an athlete who is still recovering from a first concussion receives a second blow to the head, resulting in brain swelling and possibly death. Post-concussive syndrome occurs when symptoms of a concussion persist and may last up to nine months or longer, affecting school or job performance, mood and sleep. Continue reading