What to do if you {or someone you know} has a concussion

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer is upon us.   

And the warmer weather brings with it the possibility of fun activities for you and your family to enjoy – cycling, kayaking, ATVing, roller blading.

But these activities also come with inherent risks – cuts, scrapes, broken bones, and even mild traumatic brain injuries, often labeled as concussions.

Did you know that wearing a bike helmet can reduce your risk of a concussion by 88%1

There are ways that you can protect yourself and/or your kids. Visit Parachute Canada’s website to learn more about concussion prevention.

Eva Coego and Donna Matheson, Occupational Therapists, shared some valuable information on how to recognize concussions and manage post-concussion symptoms.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Eva: Familiarize yourself with concussion symptoms before you need to know the information, that way you will more easily identify a potential mild brain injury:

  • Constant headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating and sustaining attention
  • Problems with memory, forgetfulness
  • Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and balance problems
  • Feeling like your brain/head is “foggy”
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sounds
  • Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression
  • Change in sleeping patterns; lack of, or too much sleep
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in ears

These symptoms can disrupt your day-to-day life, making even the simplest of tasks of challenging.

If you, a friend, or family member is experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a medical professional immediately.

Warning Signs

Donna: The first 24 to 48 hours are the most critical. Make sure that you have let someone know you have, or think you have, sustained a concussion, and ask them to keep an eye out for warning signs.

If you, or a friend, notice any of these warnings signs, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Severe or worsening headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to be consoled (for children)
  • Unwillingness to nurse or eat (for children).


Eva: Following a mild brain injury, or concussion, it’s important that you take the time to allow your brain and your body to recover fully. This means: taking time off school or work if you have difficulty focusing, abstaining from alcohol or other drugs, getting lots of sleep, avoiding triggers like bright lights or loud noises, and/or taking a break from driving or operating machinery until you feel completely yourself (or are cleared by a medical professional).

Donna: I would also advise someone who has sustained a concussion to avoid sports and other physical activities until feeling 100% better. The Ontario Neutrotrauma Foundation has a great rule of thumb ‘When in doubt, sit it out.’

Post-concussion recovery can be a gradual process. It is important to be patient, listen to your body, and maintain contact with a healthcare professional in order to ensure the best possible recovery.

For more information about mild brain injuries and concussions, please contact Modern OT, or consult the following resources.