The Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute brings together transformative research and patient-centered care to improve the lives of patients today and those of generations to come.
Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute
At UT Southwestern Medical Center, we provide comprehensive patient care for concussions resulting from injuries received while playing sports, being in a household or motor vehicle accident, serving in the military, or having their head or body hit in countless other scenarios.
UT Southwestern is a leader in brain research to pioneer new evaluations and treatments for brain trauma, and we have one of the nation’s premier treatment centers.
Comprehensive Evaluation and Management of Concussion
Concussion, a type of traumatic brain injury, can result from a bump, strike, or jolt to the head – or to the body – that causes the brain to bounce around or twist within the skull. This sudden movement causes stretching and tearing of connections between brain cells and creates chemical changes that alter normal brain function.
A concussion should be taken seriously. Even a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head that produces symptoms can require attention.
For emergency situations, it’s important to call 911 or seek emergency care.
UT Southwestern has the experience and expertise to treat traumatic brain injuries such as concussions. Our multidisciplinary team includes physicians, neuropsychologists, and nurses who are specialists in brain injuries, as well as physical and occupational therapists, and social workers.
Symptoms of Concussion
Signs and symptoms of concussion generally appear soon after the injury. Most people don’t lose consciousness. Symptoms a person might experience include:
- Balance problems or
- Concentration or
- Double or blurry
- Feelings of sluggishness,
haziness, fogginess, or grogginess
- Headache or
“pressure” in head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sense of “feeling not
right” or “feeling down”
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
People around a person with a concussion might notice that he or she:
- Appears dazed or
- Answers questions
- Can’t recall events
prior to the hit or fall
- Forgets an
- Is confused about assignment
- Is unsure of game,
score, or opponent
- Loses consciousness
- Moves clumsily or
- Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
When to Get Emergency Medical Attention
Call 911 or go to an emergency department right away if someone is experiencing any of the following:
- Convulsions or
- One pupil larger than
- Drowsiness, cannot be
- Headache that gets
- Inability to recognize
people or places
- Increasing confusion,
restlessness, or agitation
- Loses consciousness
- Repeated vomiting or
- Slurred speech
- Unusual behavior
- Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination
The full effect of the injury might not be noticeable at first. For example, in the first few minutes after the injury, someone might be just slightly confused or appear a little bit dazed. But an hour later, he or she might become confused or unable to recall what was going on before the injury.
Repeatedly check for signs of concussion. Any worsening of concussion signs or symptoms can indicate a medical emergency.
Content source: Courtesy of CDC’s Heads Up Program. Created through a grant to the CDC Foundation from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).
UT Southwestern physicians diagnose a brain injury and determine its severity by conducting several tests, which can include:
- A physical
- Imaging studies such as
computed tomography (CT) or MRI scans of the brain
- Neuropsychological tests
to evaluate the patient’s cognitive functioning, such as learning, memory,
concentration, and problem solving
Treatment for Concussion
Concussion causes temporary dysfunction of brain cells and require rest for a full recovery. Patients can usually recover at home, requiring only rest and over-the-counter pain relievers. Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal – however, too much rest might not be good for recovery.
Although most people recover after a concussion, how quickly they improve depends on many factors, such as:
- How healthy they were
before the concussion
- The severity of the
- How they take care of
themselves after the injury
- Their age
When a patient’s symptoms have reduced significantly, a gradual return to activities such as work or school is recommended.
A person with a concussion should have someone at home who can provide close monitoring so that follow-up treatment can be provided if symptoms persist or get worse. If symptoms come back or new symptoms develop, a physician should be notified right away.
Considerations for Athletes and Student Athletes
About 10 percent of athletes participating in contact sports will experience a concussive brain injury. When such injuries happen, allowing time for the brain to heal is key. Whether an athlete has a concussion (or even if one is suspected), it's important to discontinue play or practice.
Whether the athlete is participating in football, soccer, cheerleading, or any other sport, please keep in mind the following:
- Most will recover
quickly and fully. However, for some athletes, some effects of the concussion
can last for days, weeks, or longer.
- A repeat concussion
that occurs before the brain recovers from the first can slow recovery or
increase the chances for serious complications or even death.
- Sometimes people
wrongly believe that playing injured exhibits strength and courage. Some athletes
might also try to hide their symptoms. Thus, diagnosis is important.
- Don’t let the athlete
convince the coach that he or she is “just fine” or that he or she can “tough
it out.” In fact, the saying for suspected concussion should be, “when in doubt,
sit it out.”
- Playing with a
concussion is dangerous. Pressuring injured athletes to play should be
- Young children and
teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than
- Athletes who have had a concussion are at increased risk for another concussion.
- Recognition and
proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further
injury or even death.
Research and Clinical TrialsThe Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at UT Southwestern is focused on a comprehensive and transformative approach to how brain injuries are prevented and treated. We draw on our depth of technology advances, innovative research, and exemplary patient care to create a unique collaboration to enhance the treatment and diagnosis of brain injuries.
The Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair at UT Southwestern Medical Center is focused on discovering a comprehensive and transformative approach to how brain injuries are prevented and treated.
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Fort Worth, Texas 76104 817-882-2400