Concussions are graded as mild (grade 1), moderate (grade 2), or severe (grade 3), depending on such factors as loss of consciousness, amnesia, and loss of equilibrium.
In a grade 1 concussion, symptoms last for less than 15 minutes. There is no loss of consciousness.
With a grade 2 concussion, there is no loss of consciousness but symptoms last longer than 15 minutes.
In a grade 3 concussion, the person loses consciousness, sometimes just for a few seconds.
The seriousness of a concussion dictates what kind of treatment you should seek. Most people with concussions fully recover with appropriate treatment. But because a concussion can be serious, safeguarding yourself is important. Here are a few steps to take:
Seek medical attention. A health care professional can decide how serious the concussion is and whether you require treatment. If you have suffered a grade 1 or grade 2 concussion, wait until symptoms are gone before returning to normal activities. That could take several minutes, hours, days, or even a week.If you have suffered a grade 1 or grade 2 concussion, wait until symptoms are gone before returning to normal activities. That could take several minutes, hours, days, or even a week.
If you have sustained a grade 3 concussion, see a doctor immediately for observation and treatment. A doctor will ask how the head injury happened and discuss the symptoms. The doctor may also ask you simple questions such as “Where do you live?,” “What is your name?” or “Who is the president?” The doctor asks these questions to evaluate memory and concentration skills.
The doctor may test coordination and reflexes, which are both functions of the central nervous system. The doctor may also order a CT scan or an MRI to rule out bleeding or other serious brain injury.
If hospitalization is not required, the doctor will provide instructions for recovery. Aspirin-free medications may be prescribed and you will be advised to take it easy. Experts recommend follow-up medical attention within 24 to 72 hours if symptoms worsen.
- Take a break. If your concussion was sustained during athletic activity, stop play and sit it out. Your brain needs time to properly heal, so rest is key. Definitely do not resume play the same day. Athletes and children should be closely monitored by coaches upon resuming play. If you resume play too soon, you risk a greater chance of having a second concussion, which can compound the damage. The American Academy of Neurology has issued guidelinesabout resuming activities after a concussion.
- Guard against repeat concussions. Repeat concussions cause cumulative effects on the brain. Successive concussions can have devastating consequences, including brain swelling, permanent brain damage, long-term disabilities, or even death. Don’t return to normal activities if you still have symptoms. Get a doctor’s clearance so you can return to work or play with confidence.