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Heads Up! Know the Facts About Concussion

March 21, 2023

A woman with a possible concussion holds ice against her head.

If you think concussions only occur in sports, think again. Head injuries can occur at any age, anywhere, and anytime. In fact, one study shows that nearly 1 in 4 Americans report having had a concussion at some point in their lives -- so it’s important to take brain injuries seriously.

“Mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion, is fairly common in both children and adults,” says Seth Stoller, MD, a neurologist at Atlantic Health System, who explains that a concussion is any blow or jolt to the head that causes the brain to move quickly within the skull.

“When someone experiences a head injury, it is important to get them into a comfortable environment and monitor for changes in underlying behavior. Symptoms can appear immediately or several days after the injury, and over time the vast majority of people will fully heal with no long-lasting effects.”

The Signs and Symptoms of Concussion

  • Headache and head pressure
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Feeling in a fog
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Dizziness
  • Balance issues
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Neck pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Nervousness and anxiousness
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Heightened emotions

How Many Concussions Are Too Many?

"Typically, there are no major long-term health effects from 1 or 2 concussions. We become concerned when student-athletes have multiple concussions in too short of an interval of time," say Dr. Stoller. "When this occurs, some patients can develop longer-term headaches — including migraines — and issues with attention, concentration, and memory.  And while there is no definitive number that we identify, it is the interval of time between two concussions that is most concerning. We absolutely must avoid having two concussions in less than 2 weeks because catastrophic injuries can occur."

Healing From a Brain Injury

No two individuals and no two concussions are alike, but the list of symptoms is consistent. So, don’t dismiss a fall or blow to the head. Your primary care doctor can start you on a pathway to recovery, and if you need to see a doctor right away, consider the nearest urgent care or hospital emergency department. Depending on the severity of the injury, the healing process may involve an evaluation by a neurologist or concussion expert along with physical therapy, balance and visual therapy, nutrition counseling, and neuropsychology services.

“Whether we’re treating a high school athlete, an elderly person who has fallen, or an NFL player that took a hit to the head, we take an individualized approach to concussion care that involves multiple specialties,” says Dr. Stoller. “As a former student-athlete, I understand the desire to get back to daily routines as quickly as possible, both in the classroom or athletic field. Whether a patient’s symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe, our priority is to help people return to their lives and that takes more time for some than for others. We preach patience and behind our patients every step of the way to a recovery.”

Be Proactive About Your Health

Head injuries are more common than you think. If you or a loved one has experienced a fall or force to the head, don’t dismiss it. A primary care physician - or a neurologist - knows the symptoms associated with concussions, and how to help people heal.