By Sam LaRose
People usually associate concussions or head injuries with sports, like soccer, football or basketball, but concussions can happen during recreational activities for fun too. It’s that time of year here in the mountains for western North Carolinians’ favorite outdoor activities – hiking, canoeing or rafting down the river, biking and more. Whether your mountain biking is for fun or sport, don’t underestimate the impact of a concussion or undermine any symptoms you may be feeling from the result of a head injury.
If ignored, concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can have a number of long-lasting or permanent effects that can alter the way a person thinks, moves, feels or hears. Given the detrimental effects that concussions can have on a person, let’s dive into what a concussion is and what to do if you suspect you or a loved one has a concussion – and why seeking treatment and not rushing your recovery are important.
When something doesn’t feel quite right: Concussions and concussion symptoms
Thomas Starnes, MD, says that a concussion occurs when a force is transmitted through the brain either directly or indirectly. Dr. Starnes explains, “This force causes microscopic injury, which results in a temporary alteration of the brain’s function.”
Concussions may occur in any part of the brain, and the symptoms are not uniform. “There has been recent work done to group concussion symptoms into broad categories, recognizing that it is rare for a concussion to consist of one symptom without overlap,” Dr. Starnes reports.
The broad scope of concussion symptoms can include:
- Mood changes
- Visual abnormalities
- Inner ear function problems
However, Dr. Starnes emphasizes that concussions can be unique and not everyone will suffer with the same symptoms. “Individuals may have symptoms from a second concussion that are different than symptoms from their first concussion,” Dr. Starnes says.
Don’t ignore your symptoms: What to do if you think you have a concussion
Depending on the degree of severity of the head injury or concussion in question, the appropriate response to that injury will differ. Initially, the correct first step in all cases is to make sure that you or your loved one is seen by a trained and qualified professional. Given the possibility of an underlying head injury following a physical incident, it is imperative that you or your loved one is checked by a doctor or an athletic trainer.
In the case of an emergency, do not hesitate to dial 911. Call 911 if someone is experiencing:
- Altered consciousness
- Extreme confusion
- One-sided weakness
- Change in size of pupil or pupils
As you can probably imagine, concussions can be quite scary, especially for the parents of children and teenagers who develop them. Keep in mind, though, that most people who have concussions are fine after healing. Focus on simply keeping your child comfortable until he or she has recovered. For little ones, be sure to have your child checked out by a doctor or physician.
Concussion treatment and recovery: Why taking time to recover is essential
Don’t rush it! After being treated for a concussion, you might be excited to return to your typical routine, but it’s important to take it easy. Significant evidence shows that taking it nice and easy provides the best results for recovery. You can (and should) still continue to be active – just moderate your physical activity accordingly.
“There is good evidence that rest is necessary, but slowly resuming activity can also play a role in active recovery,” Dr. Starnes claims.
Recovery from a concussion can take more or less time depending on whether or not the patient develops post-concussion syndrome, which is a complex disorder that presents various symptoms that can last for weeks, and sometimes months, after the event that caused the concussion.
So while you’re climbing rocks, floating down the river and hiking our mountains’ beautiful trails, hopefully you return home injury free. But if you find yourself with a head injury, remember to take it seriously and don’t rush your recovery.
Thomas Starnes, MD, is a board-certified nonoperative sports medicine physician who sees patients at Mission Orthopedics and Spine of Hendersonville. For your convenience, we offer walk-in appointments and weekend hours to ensure you have access to care when you need it. If you have pain or experienced a sports injury, visit our walk-in clinic to speak with one of our sports medicine experts.
Mission Orthopedics and Spine of Hendersonville is located at 2315 Asheville Highway, Suite 30, in Hendersonville.
For more about concussions, visit the “Publications and Position Statements” tab on American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.