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Frequently Asked Questions
For Mild Head Injuries

Q.   What is a concussion; what are some common symptoms following a concussion?
A.   A concussion is the result of a blow to head or neck, which causes to the brain to be rocked back and forth inside of the skull. This leads to an altered state of consciousness or mental awareness, which can either be temporary or prolonged. Although symptoms of a concussion are not always the same for every person, they can include changes to physical, cognitive/mental, or emotional functioning. Problems with headache, neck-ache, backache, dizziness, nausea, memory difficulties, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression, trouble thinking, and other symptoms are often reported following a concussion
Q.   Do concussions always involve a loss of consciousness?
A.   No. A concussion typically involves at least a change or alteration of consciousness of some sort, but an actual loss of consciousness is not required for the diagnosis of concussion. Often times, an individual may be unsure of whether a loss of consciousness has occurred during an incident or accident.
Q.   How long does it take to recover from the effects of a concussion?
A.   Many factors influence the course of recovery from a concussion, including the severity of the concussion, previous history of concussion, physical injury/pain symptoms, and personal history, and so the length of recovery will differ among individuals. For mild head injury, the most rapid recovery occurs in the first six months after injury, and most patients will be back to normal by three months. If you still have symptoms after six months, these will most likely disappear or improve within a year after the injury.
Q.   I had a concussion, and I fear that I may have injured my brain permanently. Is this possible?
A.   Complete recovery can be expected for most individuals who have sustained a concussion, especially if they have had very few concussions previously. Individuals who have sustained a single mild head injury are very unlikely to have injured their brains permanently, despite how distressing their symptoms might be. However, the brain is particularly vulnerable to permanent injury while it is recovering from the effects of a concussion. Therefore, if a second concussion occurs during this period, the risk of permanent brain injury is increased.
Q.   When is it necessary to see a doctor following a concussion?
A.   Many people sustain very mild concussions with very little disruption to their lives. It is also true however, that individuals often do not recognize the symptoms of a concussion during the very early stages following an injury, and the symptoms may not develop until days or even weeks following an accident. As with most medical problems, early detection and treatment of concussion is the best with regard to recovery and prevention of future problems. Therefore, if you have sustained a loss of consciousness, or any significant duration of change or alteration in consciousness (e.g., more than 10-15 minutes), it might be a good idea to see a doctor familiar with diagnosing and treating postconcussive problems. In any case, lingering problems following a concussion should be considered a signal that you should consult a professional.
Q.   I am recovering from the effects of a concussion. What can I do to help with my recovery?
A.   Postconcussive symptoms are a normal part of recovery, and most symptoms go away within three months without any special treatment. These symptoms are not a sign of relapse or brain damage. Some patients will find that, at first, postconcussive symptoms makes it difficult to work, get along at home, or relax. One of the best ways to deal with this is to resume activities and responsibilities gradually, a little at a time. Pacing yourself and getting adequate rest are also important. If your symptoms get worse, or if you notice new postconcussion symptoms, this may be a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard.
Q.   Are there things that I should avoid when recovering from a concussion?
A.   Ignoring your symptoms and trying to “tough it out” typically do not help make things better. Symptoms are your body’s way of giving you information. Overexertion or over-stimulation should be avoided. Too much activity, noise (e.g., parties), alcohol, and caffeine are typically not recommended during the recovery period.
Q.   Aren’t postconcussive problems just “psychological?”
A.   No. Although emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depressed mood, short-temper, and irritability can be experienced following a concussion, it should not be assumed that a concussion is caused entirely by psychological problems. A concussion occurs when brain function is temporarily disrupted due to a blow to the head or neck, and the consequences of the concussion can trigger emotional symptoms.