Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is a concussion?
What happens to the brain in concussion?
What are the symptoms and signs of concussion?
Is medical attention necessary?
How long does it take to recover from concussion?
How is a concussion treated?

What is a concussion?
A concussion is a common form of traumatic brain injury caused by a direct or indirect hit to the head or body (for example, a check to the boards, a hit to the head, or a car accident). This causes a change in brain function, resulting in a variety of symptoms.

With a concussion there is no visible injury to the structure of the brain, meaning that tests like MRI or CT scans are usually within normal limits.

What happens to the brain in concussion?
When a person suffers a concussion, the brain suddenly shifts or shakes inside the skull and can knock against the skull's bony surface. A hard hit to the body can result in an acceleration and/or deceleration injury when the brain brushes against bony protuberances inside the skull. Such force can also result in a rotational injury in which the brain twists, potentially causing shearing of the brain nerve fibres.  There are also changes in chemical function of the brain.

Temporarily, following a concussion, the brain is not functioning normally, and is more vulnerable to a second head injury.

What are the symptoms and signs of concussion?
A person does not need to lose consciousness (i.e. pass out or get knocked out) to have suffered a concussion.  Signs and symptoms of concussion include:

Observed by Others

Reported by Athlete

  • Appears to be dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment
  • Forgets plays
  • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even temporarily)
  • Shows behaviour or personality change
  • Forgets events prior to hit
  • Forgets events after hit
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Feeling "foggy"
  • Change in sleep pattern
  • Concentration or memory problems

 

Someone who has suffered a head injury or who appears to have concussion symptoms should stop playing right away. Do not leave him/her alone. A doctor should see him/her as soon as possible.  If the person has been knocked out, call an ambulance immediately. Do not move the person or remove sporting equipment, such as a helmet, in case of cervical spine injury. Wait for the paramedics to arrive.

Is medical attention necessary?
A person who has suffered a concussion should see a doctor immediately if he/she has a seizure or symptoms worsen, for example:

Problems caused by a traumatic brain injury can get worse hours later.  The person should not be left alone and should be checked on throughout the night.  If there are any concerns about a person’s breathing or sleep, make sure you can wake him/her up.  If the person has difficulty awakening, call an ambulance.

How long does it take to recover from concussion?
The signs and symptoms of concussion often last for 7 to 10 days but may last much longer. In some cases, a person may take many weeks or months to heal.  Those who have suffered previous concussions may take longer to heal.

How is a concussion treated?
The most important treatment for a concussion is rest.

A person who returns to school or work, or resumes activities before he/she is completely better are more likely to get worse and to have symptoms longer.  Specific treatment or medication, such as neuropsychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, etc, may be required.

Returning to school after a concussion
Sometimes a person who has suffered a concussion finds it hard to concentrate in school, and may complain of worsening headache or nausea when concentrating in the classroom.

If symptoms get worse while in class, a person should stay home from school to rest. Once he/she feels better, they can try going back to school for half days at first.  If this goes well, then he/she may go back full time.

Returning to sports after a concussion
A person should not return to play if he/she has any concussion symptoms or signs.  Once these have remitted, and clearance has been given by a physician or neuropsychologist, a stepwise Return-to-Play plan should be followed. Please see our Return-to-Play Guidelines.