Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MBTI) aka concussion has been a hot topic lately. NFL and youth sports have stolen the spotlight but concussions are not limited to sports. Car accidents, falls, head injuries are also leading causes of concussion. No matter the offending situation, concussions get overlooked when people don’t lose consciousness. If you are hit hard enough to get your “lights knocked out,” rest assured you will be monitored. But what happens to those people who are “shaken up.” Thankfully, we know better now. There is a concerted effort to raise awareness for concussions. The reason: concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Brain tissue is delicate and can be injured from jostling in the skull. Think about it. Shake a can of beans or tomatoes hard enough and you can bruise innocent vegetables.
How do you know when to seek out medical attention? The best answer is don’t wait. We are all made the same but are not all equal. Some people tolerate injury better than others. Let a professional decide whether to hang tight or refer up the line. Doctors have lots of information to triage your situation. Often times you will only require watchful waiting. Fancy expression for “wait and see” or, if you prefer, “keeping an eye on you.” An early evaluation helps establish a baseline to judge progression. For the contact sport aficionado, having a pre-injury exam is helpful and encouraged because it sets the barometer to gauge the subtle changes after an injury occurs.
However, most of us are not playing contact sports on a regular basis. After a head injury, car accident or fall consider getting a medical evaluation. First timers should be monitored to watch for subtle symptoms that determine the extent of injury. Common symptoms include new headaches or dizziness with nausea. Sensitivity to light or sound. Numbness or tingling. Difficulty concentrating or “fogginess.” Increased irritability. Being emotional. Memory lapses either before, during or after the injury. Changes in sleep patterns. Increase in symptoms with physical or mental activity.
Healing from head injury
Rest is usually the key remedy. All things heal. If we didn’t heal, every injury would take us to the grave. In Spanish we say, give time, time (dele tiempo, al tiempo.) That is, be patient and give yourself the time you need to feel better. Many things influence your recuperation. General health, personal habits (drinking, smoking, diet, sleep, stress) previous history of concussions or headaches, developmental disabilities, psychological factors.
Frustration, fear, and anxiety during recovery is normal. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, accept the situation and keep an objective eye on yourself. No one knows you better than yourself. Rest up. When you feel ready gradually return to your activities. Start light activity and see what happens. The key measure will be a change in previously mentioned symptoms with physical or mental activity. Trust yourself. If the coast is clear, step it up a little. If your symptoms flare up for more than 24H then scale back. Follow this dance, until you are back to your normal routine. If at any time you are unsure, visit your doctor or someone with experience managing concussions.
A Head injury and concussions are often associated with neck pain because of the whipping motion of your dome. A good doctor will try to determine the source of your symptoms. Specifically, is your headache coming from the joints or muscles in your neck, or is it the concussion. High cervical disc injuries can also cause headaches. Does dizziness worsen with head motion, body motion, or is it random. Is the numbness or tingling originating from nerve injury in your neck, limbs or is it a manifestation of the concussion. Are there symptoms with sleep or independent of sleep. A good exam is a valuable tool to your recovery.
MTBI. Concussion. No matter which way your slice it, brain injury sounds scary. It evokes images of tubes, beeping machines and vegetable references. While concussions are a serious matter they don’t have to be frightening. Don’t go it alone. Seek advice and all will be good in the world.