A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 3.8 million sports-related concussions are reported in the U.S. every year.

Concussions can occur from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Even a "ding," "getting your bell rung," or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. Many people assume that if an athlete does not lose consciousness then they did not suffer a concussion. This is not true.

Athletes who sustain repeat concussions are also at a higher risk for brain swelling permanent damage and even death.

Did you know?

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 10 percent of all contact sport athletes sustain concussions and 63 percent of all concussions occur in football players.

  • An athlete who sustains a concussion is four to six times more likely to sustain a second concussion.
  • "Bell ringers" account for 75 percent of all concussions.
  • The effects of a concussion are cumulative in athletes who return to play prior to complete recovery.
  • Concussion headaches are the No. 1 reported symptom, usually described as a "pressure sensation" which worsens as the day progresses.
  • Eighty percent of all concussions get better within 3 weeks and 20 percent of concussions take three weeks or longer to recover.
  • Second impact syndrome (SIS), which results from a rapid swelling of the brain, can occur if an athlete suffers an additional concussion before symptoms of the initial concussion have subsided.
  • Adolescent athletes are more susceptible to second impact syndrome.
  • Second impact syndrome is more likely to occur within 14 days of the initial concussion.

What is really going on in the brain after a concussion?

A metabolic imbalance occurs in the brain after a concussion. Therefore increasing blood flow to the brain during recovery may slow down the recovery process and worsen the symptoms of concussion. Many patients with concussions have a hard time concentrating or focusing on a task.

Recent research by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center indicates that females typically have more concussion symptoms than males. Also, younger athletes (aged 18 and younger) typically have longer recovery times after a concussion.

How does a concussion impact your ability to learn and concentrate?

Both physical exertions and cognitive exertion, or thinking, are usually difficult for an athlete who has suffered a concussion. Cognitive exertion and the added stimulation of the school environment can significantly increase concussion symptoms, even during the recovery period. An athlete with a concussion will frequently find that background noise, lighting, changing classes, group work and testing can all exacerbate their symptoms.

Physicians may prescribe a modified learning environment or school schedule for athletes who have suffered a concussion. Do you want to know more about academic accommodations? Visit our toolbox or make an appointment with a physician on our medical staff before your child returns to school.

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