Q: What’s the difference between a concussion and a mild traumatic brain injury?

A: Both are considered injuries to the brain.  Concussions are considered to be mild traumatic brain injuries.

Q: Can I get a CT scan or MRI to show whether or not I have a concussion?

A: No. A concussion does not show up in imaging brain scans.

Q: Do you have to be knocked out to have a concussion?

A: No, you don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion.  In fact, most people who have a concussion never lose consciousness.

A bump, blow, or jolt to the head can cause concussion.  A blow to the head strains your brain cells, causing a chemical reaction that impairs nerve cell function.  This event can cause a loss of consciousness. 

Q: Must you hit your head to sustain a concussion?

A: No. A concussion is not always caused by a hit to your head.

Q: Is it okay to take medicine for a headache with a concussion?

A: It’s safe to use Tylenol in the first 24 hours, as long as symptoms don’t get worse.  Ibuprofen or Aleve should not be taken the first day, on the side of caution, as they may increase the risk of bleeding or mask symptoms. If a headache continues after two weeks, you need to return to your doctor to look for other causes.

Q: What exactly does “rest” mean?

A: This depends on the person.  Overall, after two to three days of rest, you should be easing back into your normal routine. 

More detail regarding the “Do’s” and “Don'ts” of recovery can be found here (hyperlink to Recovery & Management section).

Q: Does diet play any role in recovery from a concussion?

A: A person recovering from a concussion may not feel as hungry or thirsty as before.  It is important to continue eating and drinking throughout the day to keep blood sugar, as your body needs the energy to heal.  Try to drink six 8-ounce glasses of fluid (water, juice, Gatorade) throughout the day.  The brain is sensitive to low blood sugar and dehydration and these conditions can mimic or worsen concussion symptoms like headache, dizziness, fogginess, stomachache and irritability.

Q: How many concussions are too many?

A: There is no general agreement on how many concussions is “too many”.  However, once you’ve had a concussion, you are three to five times more likely to have another. Each person’s reaction and ability to recover is different.

You and your healthcare provider should discuss your history of concussions and decide what is in your best interest.  There are many factors to consider, including;

  • Number of head injuries/concussions
  • How long it took to fully recover from each concussion
  • How close together, in time, each concussion occurred

A significant concern for athletes is Second Impact Syndrome. Second Impact Syndrome happens when a person sustains a repeat concussion before the brain has recovered from the first one.  Second Impact Syndrome can slow your overall recovery, make symptoms last longer than they would have if you rested and fully recovered, and increase the chances for long-lasting or permanent problems.

Care at UofL Health

UofL Health has experienced doctors and professionals experienced in evaluating and treating people who have had traumatic brain injuries, including concussions.  UofL Health professionals trained in primary care, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, sports medicine, psychology, and rehabilitation will work with you to develop a treatment plan if you’ve had a concussion.

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