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A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury resulting from an impact to the head or violent shaking of the head or upper body. By definition, a concussion is not a life-threatening injury. However, any good hit or jarring of the head can potentially alter brain functioning.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Concussion

So what causes a concussion? Doing anything that ends in blunt force trauma to the head can result in a concussion. However, the most common causes are falls, fights, work related injuries, sports activities and car accidents. Other risk factors can range from high-risk sports and prior concussions to female gender (females are at 2-2.5 times higher risk at attaining a concussion then males) and fatigue from physical exertion. Some major complications may also arise from a major blow to the head such as swelling, susceptibility to epilepsy, bleeding in the brain or long-term changes of the brain which is a condition called Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS). PCS is a term describing a set of symptoms, such as headaches, depression, and concentration problems, that a person may experience weeks, months or years after a concussion.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Concussion

Youve suddenly sustained a serious blow to the head. What now? First, it is important to understand that everyone experiences a concussion differently. Some people have mild symptoms while others experience severe ones. Often, concussion side effects may not be evident until several minutes or hours later. Here are the most common symptoms:

Physical Symptoms Headache, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, balance and coordination problems, loss of consciousness, vision and hearing problems, changes in appetite and seizures.

Psychological and Cognitive Symptoms fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion and problems with memory, concentration and decision-making.

Testing to see how serious your concussion is starts with a visit to your doctor for neurological tests. Some tests performed asks your name and where you live, this determines memory and concentration skills. Others test coordination and reflexes to see if your central nervous system has been affected. If more testing is needed, the doctor sends you for imaging such as a CT scan or MRI to rule out swelling and bleeding of the brain.

Treatment, Medications, and Preventionof Concussion

Seeking proper concussion treatment is the most important action taken to prevent any long-term damage. Methods of head injury treatment start with a visit to your doctor where he or she will examine your concussion. Your doctor will recommend at-home treatments as simple as proper rest and taking time off of work, friends checking-in on you, Tylenol for headaches and Advil and ice for swelling. However, some treatment and prescription drugs can be more involved such as Amitriptyline, a drug used for complications such as the previously mentioned Post-Concussion Syndrome. And in some cases an overnight stay in the hospital may be necessary for further observation.

Since there is no literal school of hard knocks regarding concussions, prevention is the best way to avoid them in the first place. Making your home safer to prevent slips and falls and using proper equipment such as helmets, seat belts, and hard hats when working or playing in any kind of activity that could cause a head injury are some sure fire ways to prevent an accident. Avoiding drunk driving and texting are of course the biggest forms of prevention in automobile safety. So remember: using your head can keep you out of the doctors office and your head healthy and safe.