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Understanding Concussions (Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries)
If you watch professional sports or television hospital dramas, you've probably seen the flurry of activity that surrounds a head injury. Perhaps you've even had one yourself. A mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) can feel like a close call, but what many people do not realize is that even though the injury could have been worse, a mild head injury can be a serious health concern.
Q. What is a mild traumatic brain injury?
Also known as a concussion or mild head injury, a MTBI occurs when the brain has been harmed due to a jolt to the head that causes the nerve cells in the brain to be stretched, torn or bruised. The symptoms may be as minor as a headache or as severe as confusion and vomiting.
Q. What causes these head injuries?
Most MTBIs are the result of falls, sports injuries and car accidents, but it's important to know that you don't actually have to hit your head at all to sustain an injury. Whiplash, for example, can cause the brain to be pushed against the skull and can lead to a brain injury.
Q. Why is it important for me to know about head injuries?
The effects of a head injury build on each other, which means that if you have a second head injury before your original injury fully heals, your risk permanent brain damage or even death increases. That's why health experts typically recommend no contact sports, strenuous activities or other risky behaviors that can cause a second head injury for at least two weeks after the symptoms have resolved completely. Your doctor will also let you know when it's safe to drive again and when you can return to work.
Q. How long does it take to recover?
Most people recover in three to seven days without any significant complications. However, some people can experience ongoing symptoms that are disruptive to their lives. If symptoms last more than a week, call your doctor.
Q. How is a mild head injury diagnosed?
A MTBI is diagnosed according to the symptoms a person is experiencing immediately or hours following the traumatic event. A diagnosis of post-concussive syndrome is made when a person has ongoing symptoms days or even weeks after the incident. A concussion does not show up on a CT scan or MRI, but these may be performed to rule out a brain injury requiring immediate attention.
Parker Adventist Hospital has a program to treat mild head injuries. Patients who are suspected of having mild head injuries are followed closely by a therapist specially trained in cognitive therapy. The therapist checks for symptoms such as forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, irritability or depression. If the patient exhibits any symptoms, the therapist works with the patient's physician to design a rehabilitation program. To learn more about mild head injuries, call the Parker Adventist Center for Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine at 303-269-4590. For more information download the Understanding Concussions brochure.