This article written by Dr. Johnson was originally published in Katy Trail Weekly.
With school out and government restrictions lifting, many of us are slowly getting back to our new “normal.” While many of our kids are excited to get out of the house and potentially back into sports, it’s important that we stay focused on safety. Whether it’s running, playing games in the neighborhood or participating in school activities, hitting our heads, falling, or colliding with someone in a contact sport can be a risk. In severe cases, that collision can result in a concussion, which is technically a form of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
A sudden impact to the head may produce injury manifest feeling confused or having memory problems, sensitivity to light and loud noises, nausea and vomiting, problems maintaining balance, feeling groggy, foggy or sluggish, feeling pressure in the head or headache and blurry vision or balance issues.
If you or your child has any of these symptoms and seems to be a little “off” the normal, questioning them about recent activity and the possibility of being struck in the head is important. If the symptoms are not resolving within a couple of hours or are getting worse you should seek medical evaluation immediately. The CDC has recommended rest, light activity, moderate activity and then back to regular activity.
Rest. You or your child should rest the first few days after being injured while symptoms are severe. Physical activity as well as thinking or remembering activities should be limited in order to avoid worsening symptoms. Lastly, allow naps throughout the day if needed and make sure to get a good night’s sleep.
Light activity. Once you or your child starts to feel better, you may gradually return to regular activities, as long as they are not strenuous. Kids may also return to school and activities. If symptoms do not worsen, it is OK for your child to participate in that specific activity. However, if symptoms do worsen, time spent on that activity should be cut back. Screen time and loud music should be limited before bed and fixed sleep schedules should be followed. Naps can be reduced or they can return to their regular napping schedule, depending on their age.
Moderate activity. When symptoms are almost gone, you or your child can return back to most regular activities. Breaks are only needed if concussion symptoms worsen. At this stage, kids can also return to a regular school schedule.
Regular Activity. Recovery from a concussion is when you or your child are able to complete daily activities without experiencing any symptoms. Regular activity may resume at this point.
More information on concussion recovery can be found at cdc.gov.
Treatment can vary depending on injury and person. In general, the focus is to limit activity, stay in a low light and sound environment, and get as much rest as possible. In mild cases, symptoms can resolve within hours to a few days. Keep in mind, the length of time of recovery is not related to the severity of the impact and careful observation is necessary. If you’re feeling that symptoms and discomfort are persisting, additional medical attention is recommended and, in many cases, needed.
In fact, the CDC states that 20 percent of people suffering concussions have symptoms after 30 days. Many athletes injured are out of school for days to weeks recovering unable to tolerate bright lights, loud noises, physical activity or cannot concentrate. While this isn’t always the case, and others may have headaches, lethargy and cognitive difficulties that only last for a few weeks.
Using technology to monitor concussion recovery. As technology in the health and wellness industry is advancing, there are some exciting things on the horizon in terms of technology to help with concussion monitoring and recovery.
For example, a new mobile app is now available for free called HitCheck. Users can download this app and do a baseline concussion assessment right on their phone or other mobile device. When an athlete has a suspected injury, repeating the testing will pick up symptoms and signs that may not be easily recognizable indicating a concussive event probably happened. This app can be used also to determine when abnormalities have resolved.
Speeding up recovery with hyperbaric oxygen treatments. Luckily, there are alternatives for those trying to get on their feet quicker. A recent study, presented at the Hyperbaric Medicine International Meeting in Charleston, SC, showed that hyperbaric treatments speed up recovery with 80 percent of the individuals being symptom free after five daily one-hour sessions in a hard-sided chamber. For an individual with continuing problems following a concussion, Hyperbaric Oxygen has also been helpful in longer recovery.
For those new to Hyperbaric Oxygen, this treatment involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. In this condition, your lungs can gather more oxygen than under a normal air pressure, which ultimately can help promote faster healing.
Dr. Alfred Johnson, D.O. is a physician practicing in Richardson, specializing in internal medicine, environmental medicine and chronic disease. For more information, visit johnsonmedicalassociates.com.