Common Myths About Concussions A concussion is a traumatic brain injury characterized by the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth, striking the inside of the skull. Symptoms vary based on the individual and the severity of the impact. Signs of a concussion may include headache, sensitivity to light or sound, dizziness, sleep problems, nausea, changes in mood, confusion and memory problems. Common Concussion Myths (Items that are NOT true about Concussions) A concussion happens only with a blow to the head. Not all concussions are the result of a blow to the head. The cause could be an indirect blow somewhere else on the body that results in the head and brain moving rapidly back and forth. This causes a temporary change in the brain’s energy metabolism, resulting in concussion symptoms. A person with a concussion always loses consciousness. A concussion involves the loss of consciousness only about 10 percent of the time. And a person who loses consciousness as a result of some type of head trauma doesn’t necessarily have a concussion. Dilated pupils are a sign of concussion. Pupil dilation is not a reliable sign of concussion, particularly when both pupils are dilated equally. Our pupils can become dilated when the autonomic nervous systems sympathetic branch is stimulated and the fight or flight response is triggered. This can happen when the body is under stress due to excitement, nervousness or anxiety. However, when one pupil is more dilated than the other, it could be the sign of a structural brain injury that requires immediate emergency attention. Concussion patients should be awakened every few hours so they don’t lose consciousness. While checking on the individual within the first four hours of a concussion is important, the risk of a more serious brain injury typically passes after approximately four hours. After that, the individual should be allowed to rest, sleep and conserve energy for the next 48 to 72 hours. As a person further recovers from a concussion (following the 48- to 72-hour rest period), it’s also important for them to maintain their normal sleep patterns. Often, patients experience ongoing fatigue, causing them to sleep during the day and resulting in nighttime insomnia. We recommend melatonin for these patients, along with the standard sleep “hygiene”: no cellphones, tablets or TVs in the bedroom. Children who have suffered a concussion should avoid all screens and digital media. These activities may make symptoms worse, especially in the first few days after injury. If symptoms become worse, the activity should be avoided. Once individuals become less symptomatic, however, it is important to get back to normal activities that do not worsen symptoms, including screen time. If the child’s concussion is related to a sport or activity, he or she is now disconnected from teammates and friends. Taking away a child’s normal activities and social network — such as video games and cell phones — can be like taking away their identity, which can add to their sadness or anxiety. This can be harmful to the recovery process and could even prolong it. If you think you or a loved one has a concussion, you’ll want to be checked out by a doctor right away. Call us if you have questions on what to do if you do have a concussion.
Brain Exercises to Boost Memory Your brain health is important. We don’t just lose muscle over time, our brains can atrophy, too. More specifically, your brain's cognitive reserve, its ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging and other factors without showing visible signs of slowing or memory loss, diminishes through the years. That can make it more difficult to perform mental tasks. Just like the workouts you do to make your muscles stronger, it’s important to exercise your brain to slow and reduce atrophy. The following brain exercises have been proven to work.
- Test your recall. Make a list, of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
- Play Music. Learn to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is ideal for the aging mind.
- Do math in your head. Figure out problems without the aid of pencil, paper, or computer; you can make this more difficult, and athletic, by walking at the same time.
- Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook a new cuisine. Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all involve different parts of the brain.
- Learn a new language. The listening and hearing involved stimulates the brain. What’s more, a rich vocabulary has been linked to a reduced risk for cognitive decline.
- Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
- Draw a map from memory. After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location.
- Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.
- Refine your hand-eye abilities. Take up a new hobby that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.
- Learn a new sport. Start doing an athletic exercise that utilizes both mind and body, such as yoga, golf, or tennis.