How do doctors treat a mild concussion?

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

Some common symptoms of a concussion include:

– Headache or feeling pressure in the head
– Temporary loss of consciousness
– Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
– Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
– Dizziness or “seeing stars”
– Ringing in the ears
– Nausea or vomiting
– Slurred speech
– Delayed response to questions
– Appearing dazed
– Fatigue

Some people also experience sensitivity to light and noise, balance problems, blurred vision, changes in sleep patterns, and changes in mood such as feeling sad or anxious after a concussion.

What are the grades/levels of concussion severity?

Concussions are typically graded as:

– Grade 1 (mild): No loss of consciousness, symptoms last less than 15 minutes
– Grade 2 (moderate): No loss of consciousness, symptoms last more than 15 minutes
– Grade 3 (severe): Loss of consciousness, either brief (seconds) or prolonged (minutes)

The severity of symptoms usually determines the grade, with more severe symptoms indicating a more serious concussion.

How is a mild concussion diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose a mild concussion based on the symptoms reported, a physical exam, and an assessment of neurological function. They will ask about the details of the injury and check for:

– Headache or pressure in the head
– Nausea or vomiting
– Dizziness
– Blurry vision
– Balance problems
– Confusion
– Memory problems
– Sensitivity to light or noise

They will also test coordination, reflexes, and memory. Sometimes a CT scan or MRI is done to check for bleeding or swelling, but often these tests are normal with a mild concussion.

What is the treatment for a mild concussion?

The main treatment for a mild concussion is rest and avoiding activities that could lead to another head injury. Doctors typically recommend:

– Physical and cognitive rest. This means avoiding physical activities, sports, heavy lifting, reading, screens, school, and work. Rest is very important in the first 24-48 hours.
– Avoiding driving until symptoms resolve
– Pain medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headaches
– Medication for nausea if needed
– Gradual return to normal activities over several days
– Seeing a doctor again if symptoms get worse or do not improve

Most people recover fully from a mild concussion within 1-2 weeks with proper rest and management. Some people may experience post-concussion syndrome with symptoms lasting over a month.

How much rest is needed after a mild concussion?

Experts recommend 24-48 hours of restful activity restrictions after a mild concussion. This means:

– Staying at home in a quiet, dark room to limit stimulation
– Avoiding physical activity, especially contact sports
– Avoiding reading, video games, computers, texting, television
– Getting a lot of sleep at night and naps during the day
– Staying out of school or work

After 1-2 days, light activity can gradually be resumed as long as symptoms don’t worsen. A doctor will provide guidance on slowly increasing activity over several days. Most athletes require about 2 weeks off sports after a concussion. Activities that require concentration and learning may need to be limited for several weeks while the brain recovers.

Is complete brain rest recommended after a concussion?

While initial rest is very important, experts no longer recommend complete brain rest after the first few days following a concussion. Some light mental activity can usually be resumed after 24-48 hours of rest provided symptoms are improving.

Doctors now advise slowly increasing mental activity after a day or two of initial brain rest. This might involve starting with 5-15 minutes of light mental activity like reading, screens or homework and gradually building up while staying below symptom thresholds. Prolonged brain rest can delay recovery in some cases.

When can students return to school after a concussion?

Students should stay home from school for at least 1-2 days after a concussion. When symptoms start improving, students can try returning to school part-time at first, such as attending a few classes or half-days. Accommodations like rest breaks, reduced class hours, limited homework, extra time on assignments, and postponed testing may help ease the transition back to school.

Each concussion is unique, but most students are able to return to a full school day within a week, as long as learning activities don’t worsen symptoms. However, some students may need to stay home for longer periods while they recover. Close communication with teachers and the school nurse can help guide the return to academics.

Should someone see a doctor again after a mild concussion?

It’s a good idea to follow up with a doctor again if any concussion symptoms last longer than 1-2 weeks. Post-concussion syndrome involves concussion symptoms persisting for over a month and may require more evaluation and management.

See a doctor right away if there are concerning symptoms after a concussion like:

– Worsening headache
– Seizures
– Loss of consciousness
– Repeated vomiting
– Increasing confusion
– Neck pain
– Difficulty recognizing people/places
– Weakness or numbness in arms/legs
– Slurred speech
– Unusual behavioral changes

These could indicate bleeding or more serious injury and require urgent medical care. Mild concussions typically improve within 7-14 days. Seek medical advice if symptoms do not get better or if they worsen at any point.

What precautions should be taken after a mild concussion?

It’s important to take precautions while recovering from a mild concussion:

– Avoid any activities that could lead to another head injury until fully recovered. This includes sports, physical education, playground time, and activities with risk of falling.
– Do not take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin, as these can thin the blood and increase risk of bleeding. Use acetaminophen for headaches.
– Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until cleared by a healthcare provider.
– Drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet, and get lots of rest.
– Limit screen time, exposure to bright lights, and noisy environments.
– Avoid alcohol consumption.
– Ask a doctor when it is safe to resume taking any prescribed medications.
– Return gradually to normal activities, do not over-exert.

Be sure to follow up with a doctor until full symptom resolution. Take it easy, rest the brain, and avoid reinjury during recovery.

Can concussions cause long-term symptoms?

For most people, concussion symptoms resolve fully within 1-6 weeks. However, some people can develop long-lasting post-concussion syndrome lasting over a month. Symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating may persist.

Rarely, a concussion can also lead to prolonged or permanent neurocognitive issues. Some risk factors for long-term symptoms include:

– Repeated concussions
– Severe initial concussion
– History of migraines, depression, or other mental health disorders
– Learning disabilities or differences in brain function
– Older age

To reduce risk of prolonged symptoms, it is extremely important to manage concussions properly with adequate rest, treatment, and gradual return to activity only when symptom-free. Multiple concussions occurring close together can be especially problematic. See a doctor if any symptoms persist beyond 1 month.

What complications can develop after a concussion?

Most people will recover fully after a mild concussion with proper management. However, there are some potential complications to be aware of:

– Post-concussion syndrome: Symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and cognitive impairments lasting over a month after injury.
– Second impact syndrome: Brain swelling and potentially fatal complications after a second concussion occurs before the first has healed. Hence the importance of avoiding reinjury.
– Post-traumatic headaches: Recurrent migraine-like headaches after injury. Usually treatable.
– Post-traumatic vertigo: Imbalance and dizziness resulting from inner ear damage. Can improve over weeks to months. Physical therapy can help.
– Cognitive deficits: Issues with memory, concentration, processing speed, etc may occasionally persist long-term after concussion. Neuropsychological testing can help diagnose.
– Emotional difficulties: Concussions can trigger mood changes like depression or anxiety that may require additional treatment and support.
– Sleep disturbances: Disruption in normal sleep cycles is common early after concussion but usually resolves as other symptoms improve.

Overall, mild concussions have a good prognosis with proper rest and recovery. But persisting symptoms or complications should prompt further medical evaluation.

Can concussions increase the risk of developing dementia?

There is some evidence suggesting concussions may be linked to higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life, especially if someone has had multiple concussions. The risk appears to be higher if someone sustained:

– Frequent concussions starting at an early age
– Very severe concussions with prolonged symptoms
– Lengthy loss of consciousness
– Concussions paired with development of epilepsy

However, the connection between concussions and dementia risk is still not fully clear. Having one or two mild concussions treated appropriately does not mean someone will necessarily develop dementia. But protective gear, safe play, and proper concussion management remain important, especially for children and teens.

What is the best way to prevent a concussion?

The best way to prevent concussions is to avoid head injury by:

– Wearing seat belts in vehicles to prevent the head from striking the windshield or window in a crash
– Using protective head gear like helmets and head pads when playing contact sports like football, hockey, soccer, skiing, snowboarding, etc. Make sure equipment fits properly.
– Wearing a helmet when riding a bike, skateboard, scooter, ATV, or motorcycle
– Removing trip hazards and avoiding slick floors at home
– Using non-slip bath mats and grab bars in showers/baths
– Securing rugs with non-slip tape or pads
– Installing handrails on staircases
– Improving lighting throughout the home to avoid tripping
– Exercising regularly to improve strength, balance, and coordination in order to prevent falls
– Treating health conditions that can contribute to falls like heart disease, balance disorders, muscle weakness, and vision or inner ear problems

Safety awareness, protective equipment, home modifications, and health maintenance can all help reduce the chances of sustaining a concussion. But if one does occur, remember to rest and seek medical care appropriately.


In summary, mild concussions are usually managed by initial cognitive and physical rest for 24-48 hours, followed by a gradual return to normal activities over the next several days as long as symptoms are improving. Warning signs to see a doctor include worsening symptoms, recurrent vomiting, seizures, weakness, confusion, or unusual behavior. While most people recover fully within 1-2 weeks, persisting symptoms may signify post-concussion syndrome and warrant follow up. Proper response to an initial concussion can help prevent complications. And remembering safety in sports, vehicles, and at home is key for concussion prevention.

Leave a Comment