How Long Does A Concussion Last & What To Do And Not To Do In A Concussion

A concussion is a type of injury that causes the brain to experience a sudden and quick movement inside the head. Concussions are usually the result of trauma to the head, but they can also happen if you experience a blow to the body that is hard enough to move the head in a violent manner. A concussion should be treated as a severe injury since it has a direct effect on the brain cells. Read on to find out more about concussions and how long does a concussion last and what to do and not to do in a concussion.

What is a Concussion & How Many Types of Concussions Are There?

A concussion is a severe injury that causes the brain to experience a sudden and rapid movement inside the head.(1) Concussions are usually a result of some type of trauma to the head, but they can also happen when the blow to the body is hard enough to cause the head to move rapidly and violently.(2)

A concussion should be treated as a serious injury because it has a direct effect on the functioning and health of the brain cells.(3)

There are several types of concussions, and they are typically graded on the severity of the injury and your symptoms. Here are the most commonly used grading of concussions:(4)

  • Grade 0 Concussion: You experience a headache and have some difficulty concentrating.
  • Grade 1 Concussion: You experience difficulty in concentrating, headache, and you feel dazed for less than a minute.
  • Grade 2 Concussion: You have all the grade 1 symptoms, but you feel dazed for a more extended period of time. You can also experience dizziness, amnesia, confusion, irritability, and ringing in the ears.
  • Grade 3 Concussion: There is a loss of consciousness for less than a minute.
  • Grade 4 Concussion: There is a loss of consciousness for longer than one minute.

Doctors typically allow the person to return back to doing restricted activities if they have a grade 0 or grade 1 concussion within just a day or two. A grade 2 concussion will require you to take rest for a few days. A grade 3 or higher concussion means that you need at least a couple of weeks to recover.

No matter what the severity level of your concussion is, you should ensure that you become symptom-free before you return back to your daily activities and chores. It is recommended that after experiencing a concussion, you are closely monitored by a doctor.

The American Academy of Neurology recently updated its guidelines to evaluate and manage sports-related concussions.(5) The Academy also recommended that doctors moved away from the above-mentioned traditional grading system and opted for evaluating each concussion case on a standalone basis. By doing this, doctors will avoid letting any outside influence decide when they should be giving athletes or other the go-ahead to return back to strenuous exercise or sports.

How Long Does A Concussion Last?

The symptoms of a concussion can last from anywhere between a few days to a couple of months if the injury is serious. How long a concussion lasts depends primarily on the severity of the injury.

What To Do And Not To Do In A Concussion?

It is extremely critical that a concussion is treated quickly and effectively. If a concussion is misdiagnosed or the person with a concussion is allowed to get back to strenuous activities, then it can lead to long-term complications and aggravate the injury. This is why it is essential to receive proper post-concussion case.(6)

Here are some do’s and don’ts to follow if you have a concussion:

  • Consult a doctor immediately if you have experienced a head injury and are experiencing the symptoms of a concussion. Even if you feel the symptoms are not severe, you should still see a doctor as any type of head injury is considered to be risky and should be treated as an emergency.
  • Take rest for as long as you require, or at least for 24 hours in the case of grade 0 or grade 1 concussion.(7)
  • It is necessary to get a good night’s sleep as sleeping is the body’s way of healing.
  • Remain inside and stay in an area where there is not too much bright light.
  • If you have a headache, then apply an ice pack.
  • It is recommended to stay near friends and family for at least 24 to 48 hours.
  • Only take medications that have been approved by your doctor. Avoid taking aspirin and ibuprofen for headaches as these may lead to complications and also cause potential bleeding in the brain. Opt for taking acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) for your headache.
  • Avoid multitasking, as this may make you feel lightheaded and distracted.
  • Eat a healthy and light diet. This is especially helpful if you are feeling nauseous.
  • Avoid returning to school or work immediately. You should allow your symptoms to subside before resuming your regular routine.
  • Avoid taking part in any contact sports that put you at a higher risk of getting another head injury.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol as it may slow down your recovery.
  • Avoid airplane travel, if possible.
  • Do ensure to keep your follow-up appointment.

If you experience any new symptoms during the recovery period, then see your doctor immediately.

Conclusion

A concussion is experienced differently by different people and depends on the severity of your injury. There is no defined way of determining when someone has entirely recovered from a concussion. In some people, the symptoms may become apparent immediately, while others may experience the symptoms some days later. A mild concussion does not generally require any treatment or too much of downtime. However, you may also experience a concussion that can cause headaches and other symptoms for several months.

Following a concussion, you should take at least two to four weeks off from doing any strenuous activities, such as contact sports, as you recover. Make sure that you follow all the recommendations of your doctor and let them know about all your symptoms. It is important to recover properly from a concussion to ensure that there is no long-lasting damage to the brain cells.

References:

  1. Ropper, A.H. and Gorson, K.C., 2007. Concussion. New England Journal of Medicine, 356(2), pp.166-172.
  2. Shaw, N.A., 2002. The neurophysiology of concussion. Progress in neurobiology, 67(4), pp.281-344.
  3. Anderson, T., Heitger, M. and Macleod, A.D., 2006. Concussion and mild head injury. Practical Neurology, 6(6), pp.342-357.
  4. Erlanger, D., Kaushik, T., Cantu, R., Barth, J.T., Broshek, D.K., Freeman, J.R. and Webbe, F.M., 2003. Symptom-based assessment of the severity of a concussion. Journal of neurosurgery, 98(3), pp.477-484.
  5. Giza, C.C., Kutcher, J.S., Ashwal, S., Barth, J., Getchius, T.S., Gioia, G.A., Gronseth, G.S., Guskiewicz, K., Mandel, S., Manley, G. and McKeag, D.B., 2013. Summary of evidence-based guideline update: evaluation and management of concussion in sports: report of the Guideline
  6. Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology, 80(24), pp.2250-2257.
  7. Gronwall, D. and Wrightson, P., 1975. Cumulative effect of concussion. The Lancet, 306(7943), pp.995-997.
  8. McCrea, M., Guskiewicz, K.M., Marshall, S.W., Barr, W., Randolph, C., Cantu, R.C., Onate, J.A., Yang, J. and Kelly, J.P., 2003. Acute effects and recovery time following concussion in collegiate football players: the NCAA Concussion Study. Jama, 290(19), pp.2556-2563.

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