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Time is brain: The timeline of a concussion

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital April 2, 2014 General Wellness

blue imaging of a brainWhen someone suffers a concussion, time can feel like it has stopped. What should you do next? How serious is it? Should you call for help or drive to the hospital? In reality, the clock just starts when a concussion or head injury happens because, as many of us have heard before, time is brain.

Every second and every minute matter when it comes to caring for a head or brain injury. Just ask Brian McDonald, DO, MPT, FAAPMR, physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, part of Main Line Health. Below, Dr. McDonald chronicles what really happens inside your head when you, or anyone else, suffers a concussion.

When a concussion happens

A mechanical force causes our soft brains to move within the hard skull. After this initial hit, there is a flow of ions in and out of our brain cells and a release of neurotransmitters. This release disrupts the normal balance of the brain cells, and there is a decreased blood flow to the brain.

A day after a concussion

The disruption in brain metabolism is at its worst approximately two to three days after an injury, and remains that way for at least one week. This metabolism may not normalize until at least one month from the date of the injury.

A week after a concussion

The metabolism in the brain may remain unstable, even though symptoms have subsided. Just because a patient is no longer exhibiting symptoms does not mean that the brain is back to functioning normally, so continue to use caution and refrain from getting back into activities that could result in additional or increased injury.

A year after a concussion

The majority of individuals will experience symptom resolution within one to three months, but athletic head injuries typically resolve within one month. Rarely do patients continue to experience symptoms beyond one year from the time of their injury. For the small percentage of patients who do, there is probably some long-lasting brain injury, which may show up on imaging studies.

Although everyone’s concussion symptoms, experience, and recovery may vary, one thing is for sure: immediate medical treatment is a must. If you or someone you know suffers a head injury and exhibits symptoms like headache, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision or loss of memory or consciousness, seek medical attention immediately. Time is brain, and waiting to call for medical help or addressing the issue on your own could mean more severe symptoms or side effects.

Bryn Mawr Rehab provides the services and therapy needed to help individuals recover from a concussion or brain injury, including our Neurologic Rehab Program and accredited Brain Injury Rehab Program. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury or concussion and need rehabilitation services, visit our website to learn more about Bryn Mawr Rehab.