BCH is the only facility in Boulder County and one of the few hospitals in the Rocky Mountain region that provides comprehensive treatment for concussions, from initial emergency care through outpatient rehabilitation.
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What is a Concussion?
A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by rapid movement of the head so that the brain is slammed against the inside of the protective skull. This causes vital nerve cells to be stretched, torn or bruised so they do not function properly. Concussion can occur even if your head does not strike anything, and you will not necessarily lose consciousness or suffer amnesia. Many people do not seek medical help for concussion and are able to recover quickly without any significant complications. Some people, however, suffer serious long term effects.
Second Impact Syndrome
The greatest danger from concussion lies in repeated head injuries because the effects are cumulative. An initial injury may not cause lasting problems, but subsequent concussions are more dangerous, especially if they occur while symptoms of the first injury are still present. In this condition, called Second Impact Syndrome, the brain can swell rapidly without the person losing consciousness, resulting in permanent brain damage or death.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs of concussion can occur immediately after an injury or during the following 48 hours. If an individual loses consciousness for any length of time or shows any of the following danger signs, call 911 or take him or her to a hospital emergency room immediately.
Look for any of these signs in adults:
- confusion, such as not being knowing the date, time or location
- bleeding from ears, mouth or nose
- slurred speech
- loss of coordination
- weakness or numbness of arms, legs or face
- repeated vomiting six or more hours after the injury occurred
- cannot be aroused easily after falling asleep
- one pupil larger than the other or no change in pupil size with change in light
Infant & Toddler Symptoms
Diagnosing a concussion in infants and toddlers is difficult. They often exhibit different symptoms than adults. If your toddler falls or is suspected of having a concussion, watch carefully for these symptoms:
- continual crying
- cannot be calmed (especially with infants)
- will not nurse or eat
- change in play habits
- loss of interest in favorite foods or toys
- loss of balance
- loss of newly acquired skills such as toilet training, walking, or language
Get professional medical assistance as soon after the incident as possible. Depending upon the severity of the concussion, treatments are available that can lessen its impact on a person’s daily functioning. Remember, the effects of a concussion are amplified with repeated injuries, so preventing repeated concussions is extremely important. For outpatient pediatric services, call (303) 441-0385. For outpatient adult services, call (303) 441-0493. For inpatient adult services, call (303) 938-3168.
Steps to help make recovery safe & rapid
- obtain medical assistance within the first few hours
- return to daily duties gradually
- seek medical advice to determine when to resume activities such as driving, using heavy equipment, or returning to work or school
- prevent a second injury
- treat headaches with caution (blood thinners and over the counter medications such as aspirin and products containing aspirin may cause serious complications)
- check with your doctor to make sure you are taking proper medications in the correct dosages
- abstain from alcohol and drugs
- enlist your family, friends and coworkers to help you reduce frustration and anxiety as much as possible
- for persisting problems, be sure to obtain an appropriate medical evaluation
- obtain medical assistance within the first few hours of the accident
- prevent a second injury
- do not give your child over the counter medications without physician approval
- return to regular activities slowly
- ask your doctor when it is safe to return to school or play sports
- educate your child’s teachers, daycare staff, etc., about ways to accommodate your child, such as providing more time to complete tests
Causes & Prevention
The following information may be useful in preventing concussion:
- motor vehicle accidents account for half of all concussions, so always wear your seatbelt, observe all safety rules, and avoid driving distractions.
- sports and recreational related activities are responsible for 25% of concussions, with football and hockey producing the highest rate, followed by soccer, wrestling, and basketball.
- both children and adults should wear safety helmets when participating in recreational activities
- wearing a properly fitted helmet greatly decreases the risk of concussion, especially when on a scooter, a bicycle, roller blades, skis, or a snowboard.
A concussion can interfere with your ability to function normally. If you are still having problems a month after the concussion, you may have developed Post-Concussive Syndrome.
This syndrome can be devastating to you and your family. Without changes in outward appearance, your life can be dramatically altered. For example, if you are a highly efficient person, you may now have great difficulty organizing things. If the syndrome remains undiagnosed and untreated, you can lose confidence in your abilities and become anxious or depressed.
Signs of possible Post-Concussive Syndrome include:
- lack of attention span and focus
- problems learning and remembering new information
- slowed reaction times
- difficulty doing multiple tasks simultaneously
- loss of coordination
- persistent headache
- trouble sleeping or waking
- blurred or double vision
- loss of one or more senses (taste, smell, hearing)
- ringing in the ears
- drastic change in sexual drive
- easily tired
- sensitivity to bright lights/loud noises
- anxiety or depression
- memory problems
Individuals who think they may have Post-Concussive Syndrome should see a medical professional as soon as possible. Boulder Community Health offers rehabilitation programs to combat the physical, emotional, and thinking problems associated with Post-Concussive Syndrome. Recovery can be a slow process, so patience is important.
For more information, call the hospital’s NeuroTrauma Rehabilitation Program at 303-441-0493 during regular business hours.
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