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How concussions affect your brain and how to avoid them

Here’s how concussions can affect your brain, and what you (or your active kids) can do to avoid them.

Skiing, snowboarding, biking…some of the most exhilarating activities in life also come with an injury warning tag. 

Specifically, these activities can put you (or your kids) at risk for one of the most common forms of brain injuries – a concussion. 

A concussion is a typically mild form of brain injury that can happen when you experience a blow to the head.

Probably not surprisingly, the most common victims of concussions are athletes. 

Concussions tend to lurk around heavy contact sports like football, ice hockey, rugby, lacrosse, and basketball — not to mention how common blows to the head are for sports like boxing and other martial arts.

Even if you’re beyond your years of college sports, recreational activities like skiing, snowboarding, biking can also lead to concussions if you suffer a hard fall and hit your head. 

Concussions can have immediate effects on your brain functioning, like confusion, lack of coordination, or a headache. But sometimes the effects of a concussion take days or even weeks to show up. 

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a concussion can help you or a family member recognize when to get treatment for a concussion. 

Here’s how concussions can affect your brain, and what you (or your active kids) can do to avoid them.

What causes a concussion?

Your brain is surrounded by fluid and protective membranes, which help cushion your brain.

During a fall or blow to the head, your brain is pushed against the inside of your skull, which can cause it to bruise. This is what causes a concussion.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion

It's possible for you or a family member to have a concussion and not even realize it. 

A concussion can have immediate effects on your concentration, balance or coordination. But sometimes the effects are delayed for hours or even days after your injury.

To make this injury harder to detect, concussions can't be detected on X-rays or other brain scans. Instead, doctors evaluate symptoms.

But if you experience any of the following symptoms after a fall or blow to the head, it’s time to visit your doctor or an emergency care clinic:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary loss of consciousness after the blow to head
  • Confusion or feeling dazed
  • Loss of memory about the injury
  • Dizziness or "seeing stars"
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed response to questions

Symptoms of a concussion that could be delayed for hours or even days include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression 
  • Issues with taste and smell

For about 9 out of 10 people who have a concussion, symptoms go away between 7 and 10 days.

If you don’t seem to experience any issues with coordination, concentration or headaches after a fall or blow to the head, your injury is probably mild and doesn’t need addressing from a doctor.

Concussion complications

A more severe concussion could cause your symptoms to last for weeks or even months. This is complication called post-concussion syndrome.

Post-concussion syndrome could create issues with movement and coordination, concentration and learning, or speaking. 

Because of the small chance of more serious problems, it’s important to contact a doctor if you or someone you know shows symptoms of a concussion.

How to avoid a concussion

Since sports injuries are the most common cause of concussions, knowing how to play smart and safe is the best way to avoid a concussion.

While helmets can protect against skull fractures and more serious brain injuries, they can’t prevent a concussion. Below are some sports safety considerations for you and your child’s coaches to help them avoid getting a concussion while playing their favorite sport:

  • Emphasize the importance of playing by the rules. 
  • Make sure your kid wears protective equipment for their sports, like a helmet, mouth guard, or knee, elbow or wrist pads.  
  • Make sure the field doesn’t have any holes or divots, and that any end posts are padded sufficiently.
  • Teach good sportsmanship to cut back on over-aggressive and unsafe play.

If your child does suffer a sports injury, the right type of coverage can help you save a big chunk of change on care treatment. 

Accident Insurance through Guardian covers you and your child when the inevitable accident comes knocking (but hopefully not too hard).

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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