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Frequently Asked Questions
For Sports-related Concussions

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 athlete, they can include changes to physical, cognitive/mental, or emotional functioning. For example, problems with headache, neck-ache, backache, dizziness, nausea, memory difficulties, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, depression, 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 may not occur. Often times, an athlete may be unsure of whether a loss of consciousness has occurred during a contact incident.
     
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. Most healthy athletes, however, will see significant improvement within seven to 30 days following their concussion. In some instances, symptoms may persist for a longer period, but typically not beyond a three to six month period.
     
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 athletes who have sustained a concussion, especially if they have had very few concussions previously. However, it is very important that the athlete who has sustained a concussion does not return to play too soon, as 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. The staff at Unity’s Sports Concussion Clinic can, through their evaluations, provide information that will help in determining when you are ready to return to play.
     
Q.   Isn’t it true that the better athletes just “play through” their concussions?
A.   No. A concussion, because it is by definition a disruption to brain activity, should be taken seriously. Therefore, symptoms following a concussion should not be viewed as a result of physical or emotional weakness that could be overcome by merely “toughing it out.” Ignoring the need to limit activity and play while recovering from a concussion can result in unnecessary risk of further and more serious injury.
     
Q.   I have had several concussions in my life while playing sports competitively. Should I give up playing contact sports?
A.   Giving up a sport can be a very difficult decision to make, whether you are a high level professional, amateur athlete, or a recreational player. These decisions are not always straightforward and involve many considerations. In such cases, the goal of the staff at the Sports Concussion Clinic is to provide you with the best objective, medical and neuropsychological information possible, based on the most current technologies and knowledge regarding concussion diagnosis and management, in order to assist you in making an informed decision.
     
Q.   When is it necessary to see a doctor following a concussion?
A.   Many athletes 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 sometimes symptoms may not emerge until days or even weeks following a blow. 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 seek consultation from professionals such as those at the Sports Concussion Clinic.
     
Q.   I am recovering from the effects of a concussion. What can I do to help with my recovery?
A.   In many cases of uncomplicated concussion, rest, restriction from play, and the passage of time go a long way towards full recovery. In some cases, however, various associated problems following a concussion may prolong the effects of a concussion if they are not detected and treated properly. These include (but are not limited to) difficulties with chronic pain, sleep disruption, emotional problems, and personal habits that become a problem only after a concussion (for example, a disorganized lifestyle). The staff of the Sports Concussion Clinic is prepared not only to evaluate the presence and nature of these kinds of problems, but also to work with you in coming up with a plan to deal with these issues in order to facilitate recovery.
     
Q.   Are there things that I should avoid when recovering from a concussion?
A.   As mentioned previously, refraining from contact sports and any significant risk for a second concussion is crucial. Overexertion or over-stimulation should also 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 by psychological problems. A concussion occurs when brain function is temporarily disrupted due to a blow to the head or neck.