Signs of a Concussion and When It’s Safe to Return to Activity

Author: Courney Erickson-Adams, MD

Did you know that one in five high school athletes will suffer from a concussion during their sports season? Or that high school athletes who have previously been diagnosed with a concussion are three times more likely to have it happen again in the same season? Or that 33 percent of concussions occur during practice? 

Concussions may seem like isolated incidences, but they’re much more common than many people think. With National Youth Sports Week taking place July 15-21, there’s no better time to talk about the signs of a concussion and safe management after an injury occurs. 

What is a concussion and how does it occur?

A concussion is caused by a bump or blow to the head and is categorized as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions may also occur during any type of incident that causes the head and brain to move back and forth quickly—such as a fall or sudden jolt to the body. They often take place during sports or other physical activities, but this is not always the case.

Dr. Courtney Erickson-Adams specializes in providing non-operative treatment options for sports-related and active lifestyle injuries, including concussions. She discusses more about concussions in the following video.

What are the signs of a concussion?

It is essential for both coaches and parents to be able to spot the signs of a concussion. Since athletes may resist being pulled out of a game, they may try to “tough it out” and minimize their symptoms. They also may not notice issues immediately after the injury. That’s why it’s critical to know the signs and symptoms of a concussion—which are usually placed into four categories:

Thinking/Remembering

  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Can’t remember new information

Physical

  • Headache
  • Fuzzy/blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Lacking energy

Emotional/Mood

  • Irritability
  • More emotional
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness

Sleep

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

When the possibility of a concussion exists, always seek the advice of a health professional. Since signs and symptoms can vary depending on severity, precise recognition of a concussion is essential. This is especially true in young athletes. 

An advanced method for concussion assessment is ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), which is the most widely-used and scientifically-validated computerized concussion evaluation system. It is the first and only concussion-specific solution to be granted medical device clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

When is it safe to return to activity?

To support more accurate decision-making about safely returning to activity, ImPACT-trained physicians are provided with state-of-the-art neurocognitive assessment tools and services. As one of the only ImPACT-certified physicians in West Michigan, Dr. Erickson-Adams is the regional authority on concussions. In the following video, she describes the ImPact assessment in more detail, including the value of baseline testing prior to the start of the sports season.

If a concussion is diagnosed, recommended steps include increased rest, as well as a number of other changes to activities. Watch Dr. Erickson-Adams to learn more.

If you think a concussion may be is possible, our team of experts is here to help. Contact us today.