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Concussion

Concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. When a person suffers a bump, blow or jolt to the head, the brain can shift and hit the inside of the skull. A sudden movement or jarring of the brain can temporarily change how the brain normally works. 

Fortunately, a concussion is usually temporary, and most people recover relatively quickly.

Common symptoms of concussion include the following:

  • Headache, pressure in the head
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired or less energetic
  • Fuzzy or blurry vision
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Problems concentrating or focusing, feeling “in a fog”
  • Sleeping more or less than usual or difficulty falling asleep
  • Irritability or personality changes

Seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these danger signs after a head injury.

Concussion: what you should know

  • Helmets may not prevent 100 percent of concussions, but wearing a helmet during high-impact or fast-moving activities may decrease your chances of sustaining a serious head injury. Always make sure the helmet offers the correct level of protection for each activity and that it fits properly.
  • Most people who suffer a concussion never lose consciousness. In other words, you don’t have to have loss of consciousness to have a concussion.
  • A repeat concussion that happens before the brain fully recovers from the first can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage and even death. So it is essential after a head injury to be evaluated, treated and medically cleared by concussion experts — like the specialists at the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush — before returning to sports or other fast-moving activities.

How can I get help for concussion?

Seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body:

  • Headache
  • Feeling tired or less energetic
  • Fuzzy or blurry vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems concentrating or focusing
  • Sleeping more or less than usual or difficulty falling asleep
  • Irritability or personality changes

Some concussion symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for several hours or days after the injury.

If you start to have symptoms at any time, including these concussion danger signs, call your primary care doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

Care for concussion at Rush

Depending on the type and seriousness of your symptoms, you may be seen or treated by several different specialists at Rush, including the following:

Treatment for concussion depends on the seriousness of the injury and your symptoms:

  • Rest is very important following a concussion. Your doctor will tell you which activities you should avoid and when you can return to normal activity.
  • Most concussions do not require surgery or major medical treatment. These are usually necessary only if you have bleeding or swelling of the brain or a serious brain injury.
  • Your doctor may send you to be evaluated by a physical therapist or occupational therapist if you’re having coordination or balance problems, or are having trouble with daily activities.

Most people recover from concussion within one to two weeks; however, a small percentage of people may have symptoms that last longer. Recovery may be slower in older adults, as well as in young children and teens whose brains are still developing.

Why choose Rush for concussion care

  • The neurologyneurosurgery and orthopedics programs at Rush, which include specialists who treat concussion, are consistently ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Athletes who suffer a bump or blow to the head can see a doctor for assessment within 24 to 48 hours at the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush. The clinic has one of the largest teams of clinicians in the Midwest specially trained to assess and manage concussions in athletes.
  • As team doctors for the Chicago Bulls, Chicago White Sox and DePaul Blue Demons and a variety of other teams, sports medicine doctors at Rush have decades of experience treating concussion and other injuries in high-level athletes. 
  • The Road Home Program at Rush offers Chicago-area military veterans consultations and treatment for combat-related traumatic brain injury (including concussion), plus other vital services and support for veterans and their families.
  • Specialists at Rush are nationally recognized for their research on the effects of concussion and severe brain injury and how to prevent and treat concussion and traumatic brain injury.

Departments and programs that treat this condition