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What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of injury to the brain caused by a hit, jolt or bump to the head. A blow to the body or severe shaking of the body (like whiplash) can also cause a concussion, because it causes the brain to bounce or twist in the skull.

A concussion – which is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) – can damage brain cells. Multiple concussions can be especially dangerous. Whether mild or severe, any type of concussion requires medical diagnosis and treatment.

At Aurora Health Care, our doctors and athletic trainers receive ongoing training in concussion diagnosis and treatment. We’ll help you choose the right treatment option and let you know when it’s safe to return to sports and other activities.

The Aurora Difference

Expert Diagnosis & Care for Concussions

No two athletes experience concussion in the same way. Our expertise helps us tailor care to meet your needs.

We treat athletes of all ages and help you get back into the swing of everyday life after concussion – including your favorite sports. Highlights of our program include:

  • Specialized training in concussion management: Our team includes doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers who receive ongoing training in concussion diagnosis and treatment. This level of expertise helps us catch symptoms, such as mental fog, that are easy to miss. Meet our sports health team.
  • Fast access to care on and off the field: Have you seen us on the sports field offering team medical coverage to your favorite team? We’re here for you, too – our sports health experts are available at convenient clinic locations throughout the week. Learn how to get sports medicine care.
  • Sports-oriented primary care: Our medical team includes athletic trainers and primary care sports medicine doctors. Primary care sports medicine doctors have family medicine training and specialty training in treating accidents and injuries that happen during sports and other activities. Meet our primary care sports medicine doctors.
  • Relief from lingering symptoms: Some concussion symptoms, including dizziness and blurry vision, do not go away on their own. We may refer you to a specialist, like a neuro-ophthalmologist, or help you overcome symptoms with specialized physical therapy called vestibular therapy.
  • Coordinated care: If you need additional concussion care, such as neurology or therapy treatment, our providers are all on the same team. They all have access to your electronic medical records and health history, which helps them collaborate on the best course of treatment for you.

Symptoms & Causes

Signs of a Concussion

You’d think that a concussion, which can cause brain injury, would have obvious physical signs. But not everyone experiences obvious effects – like losing consciousness – when they have a concussion.

Any time you hit your head, you should consider seeing a doctor. Treatment can help you return to your everyday activities and prevent additional damage to your brain.

If you or your child might have a concussion, call a doctor or go to the emergency room if you notice any of these signs:

  • Headache: Especially a headache that gets worse
  • Illness: Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
  • Vision: Double vision, blurred vision or sensitivity to light
  • Speech: Slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense
  • Hearing: Ringing in the ears or other hearing problems
  • Sleepiness: Drowsiness or a dull, foggy or slowed-down feeling
  • Confusion: Trouble concentrating, confusion or irritability


Diagnosing a Concussion

To diagnose a concussion, our athletic trainers or primary care sports medicine doctors will:

  • Examine your physical condition
  • Check your reflexes, coordination and senses
  • Ask how your symptoms are affecting your daily life

We may also examine the physical structure of your brain to look for injuries. Most often, we’ll use a computed tomography (CT) scan of the brain to do this. This test uses a series of X-rays to present a full picture of your brain.

Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis at Aurora.


Recovering From a Concussion or TBI

For most people with a concussion or traumatic brain injury, rest is needed to help the brain heal. You may need to take a break from sports for about 10 days. You might also need to avoid mentally tiring activities like using a computer or reading. Some people require longer rest or additional treatment.

Be especially careful to avoid additional blows or hits during your recovery. Repeated brain injuries can cause more severe problems.

Wait for your doctor’s approval before you go back to sports or other physical activities, and go slowly. After all, healing your brain is a lifelong investment – take your time.

Advanced Concussion Care for Brain Injury

If symptoms don’t go away or get worse, there’s still hope. At Aurora, you’ll have access to a large team of experts who provide specialized care for advanced concussions.

Advanced concussion care may include:

  • A neurology exam: Doctors who specialize in problems affecting the brain (neurologists) can help rule out other possible causes of concussion-like symptoms, including difficulty thinking and concentrating. Our team also includes neurologists who specialize in treating long-lasting (chronic) headaches. Learn more about neurology.
  • Natural treatments: Our integrative medicine program offers treatments like chiropractic care and acupuncture instead of medication to help people heal. Learn more about integrative medicine.
  • Vestibular therapy: We’ll help you overcome problems with balance and vision with specialized physical therapy. Vestibular therapy may include eye exercises or using a special harness to help you work on your balance. Learn more about vestibular therapy.
  • Speech therapy: Our speech therapists can help you overcome problems with thinking and speaking. Find out more about our rehabilitation and therapy services.

Returning to Sports

What to Know Before Returning to Sports Post-Concussion

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) provides specific return-to-play guidelines for coaches, athletes and families. For your well-being, follow these rules before taking up sports again after a head injury:

  • Activity: You shouldn’t resume activity until the head injury symptoms are completely gone.
  • Medical clearance: Your doctor or team trainer needs to clear you to return to sports.
  • Recurring symptoms: If symptoms come back, stop all activity and notify your doctor. It’s tough to be sidelined, but it’s worth it to protect your long-term health.

Get more information about WIAA concussion guidelines.

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