What is a concussion?

football players

A concussion is a brain movement injury that occurs when a person takes a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move inside the skull.

Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty with concentration and/or memory
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in behavior or personality

What to do if you think you might have sustained a concussion:

  • If you think you may have suffered a concussion due to a blow to the head or body, you should immediately follow up with the coach, trainer, or medical professional. 
  • Athletes with a concussion have slower reflexes, poor balance and delayed reaction times. Because of this, continuing to participate in activities or playing with a concussion can be dangerous and lead to another brain injury, longer recovery, or additional musculoskeletal injury.
  • Even if you feel fine initially, symptoms may develop hours or days after a brain injury. Therefore, if in doubt, sit it out!
  • Most athletes who sustain concussions fully recover within a few weeks and are able to progressively return to regular activities within that time. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment and our approach is focused on individualized assessment and treatment. In order to fully resume sports or other activities, your doctor may ask that you complete a gradual return-to-play treatment process. Learn more about concussion treatment.

Recovering from a Concussion

Our doctors will customize a recovery plan based on your specific brain injury and concussion symptoms. Our goal is to swiftly diagnose and treat your concussion in order to minimize the effects of your injury, prevent additional harm, and return you to activities safely.

If you have a concussion, our specialists at UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT may recommend the following to help your recovery process:

  • Rest for a short time (24-48 hours), then gradually start doing light activities.
  • Avoid high-risk activities. Until a doctor gives the approval, you must stop all sports participation and refrain from any activities that could cause another bump to the head or body. These include biking, skateboarding and participating in school gym class.
  • Limit technology in the first 24-48 hours after your injury, including use of  computers, video games, smartphones and television. After this period, you may resume use of technology as tolerated with symptoms. For some patients, looking at screens exacerbates symptoms, but this will not make your injury worse or damage your brain. 
  • Manage schoolwork. You may find it difficult to concentrate on school work, take tests or read. Your doctor will work with you and your school to customize a plan for completing assignments.

Symptom-limited activity: In most cases, after you have rested for 24-48 hours we will recommend gradually increasing cognitive activities that stimulate the brain and exercise to help with recovery.