Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently ended up with a concussion after she became being dehydrated due to a stomach virus and fainted.
Although concussions most frequently occur in sports injuries, they can happen after any fall or blow to the head or body that shakes the brain, as in Clinton’s case.
“A concussion is basically a traumatic injury where brain function is affected, but in general, brain structure is not affected,” says Andrew Tucker, MD, the medical director of the MedStar Union Memorial Sports Medicine Program in Columbia, Md., and the head physician of the Baltimore Ravens.
By structure, he explains that there is no bleeding or bruising seen on MRIs or CT scans, but patients may notice symptoms such as headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, dizziness, emotional changes, and feeling slowed down.
While most concussions are not serious and patients recover within a week or two, they should not be taken lightly. Here are some facts you should know about concussions:
1. It can be confusing, literally Because the symptoms of a concussion can be confused another ailment or mistaken for fatigue, they can be dismissed as “nothing bad or serious.” Here, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Consult with your doctor if you suspect you have a concussion to make sure you are properly diagnosed.
2. Don’t rush recovery! Dr. Tucker says the biggest mistake that patients make is returning back to work, school, and sports too quickly. “They minimize or deny their symptoms in order to get back sooner,” he says. In a recent survey of football players, many did not even report symptoms of a concussion for fear of being banned from playing. It’s better to take your time and ease back into things, otherwise you prolong recovery.
3. Children and females need more recovery time Research suggests that younger brains actually heal slower than adult brains. Also, for reasons not yet known, female athletes need more time to recover and are more susceptible to concussions than males, Dr. Tucker says.
4. Rest is critical Make sure you get eight hours of sleep each night; this is even more important after a concussion. “Proper sleep and good rest is critical for the recovery of the brain,” Dr. Tucker says. Because sleep may be disrupted post-concussion, some physicians can prescribe short-term sleep medication to ensure a good rest, he adds.
5. Be picky about pain meds For mild or moderate concussions, experts advise using acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, rather than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin, which can potentially increase the risk of bleeding.
6. Watch for 'red flag' symptoms Symptoms such as a worsening headache, trouble with speech and coordination, change in mental activity, and confusion can signal a more serious brain injury. If you experience any of these symptoms, head to the ER, stat!