Thursday, May 26, 2016


One of my best friends told me earlier this week that his daughter (18, ultra-high achiever, freshman in college in some kind of honors program) was still having post-concussion symptoms two months after an idiot on a snowboard hit her from behind on a snow slope during spring break.

I know I talked about this when Eli had his concussion four years ago, but it's worth repeating, because if you or someone you know has a concussion, there are a few incredibly important procedures that need to be followed.

My friend's daughter did none of these things, because she went to an emergency clinic right next to the slopes, and the information they gave her was not very helpful. So she went right back into high-volume studying, etc., and her recovery was delayed by months. She still hasn't recovered.

First off, and this is the most important, by far: for the first 48-72 hours, your brain needs complete rest. Turn off your phone. No videogames. No reading. No music. Have your living area as dark as possible. If you have to watch something, watch Noggin (the preschool children's network) at half brightness and half volume.

Does that sound excessive? It's not. Your brain is trying to heal itself, and you need to remove every bit of stimulus you can.

After that first critical period, the key thing to remember is that you don't reintroduce anything all at once. Once you resume an activity, you resume it for a much, much lower period of time. If that goes okay, you can very gradually increase the time each day.

It's the same for physical activity. You walk, then you walk faster, then you lightly jog, but you don't do more than one particular step on a single day. If you have any symptoms, you don't go back down the ladder by one day--you go back to the very beginning.

That's a real key. No matter the activity, if you're gradually stepping it up and you start having symptoms (headaches, sensitivity to  light or noise, trouble focusing, any spatial issues), you immediately go back down to zero activity until you're symptom-free, then you start back at day one.

Don't screw around with this. If the post-concussion recovery isn't managed correctly, you open yourself up to symptoms continuing for months or even years.

The other important thing--especially for kids, since this is fairly readily available--is to do some baseline testing that establishes the normal level of brain functioning/mental ability. Something like ImPACT testing, or something similar.

When you have a baseline, it's easy to take the test post-concussion and see when normal mention function has resumed--or, if it hasn't, what areas are still deficient. Particularly for kids on team sports that involve checking/tackling, etc., it helps you understand when it's safe for them to resume practice.

I'll say it again: don't screw around with this.

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