Aug 26, 2015 — In some ways, a concussion is a lot like pulling a muscle. After the injury, recovery time is critical to healing. Except with the brain, that recovery time is even more critical to long-term health. Emergency room nurse Jamie Troyer discusses what happens during a concussion, the symptoms and the importance of proper recovery time before a student athlete considers getting back into the game.


Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Science's Radio.

Interviewer: This is The Scope Health Science's Radio, broadcasting at Be Well Utah. And right now we're going to talk about concussions and it's an especially important topic with youth sports seasons and even college sports seasons coming up, especially football. And we're going to learn more about concussions right now from Jamie Troyer. Is that how you pronounce it? I make it there? Yeah, Jamie Troyer. She's an emergency room nurse. And we're going to talk about, first of all, the signs of a concussion and just how devastating they can be. So, first of all, what are the signs Well, what is a concussion? Let's talk about that first. Let's get that definition out of the way.

Jamie: So a concussion is a brain injury. So you're actually having your brain hit against your skull. And it's a brain injury so it can cause different kind of things, like you can forget the whole day, you can just ask questions over and over and over again, which is one of the big signs that people notice. Just feel like a fog, or walking through the day in a fog. And then you can have the more serious injuries like seizures or actually a bleed that goes along that's worse than a concussion.

Interviewer: And if you have those sorts of symptoms it's because you've damaged your brain in some way?

Jamie: Yes.

Interviewer: I think we like to chuckle or laugh when somebody gets a concussion and they don't know what day it is or who the president of the United States is, but it's much more serious than that right?

Jamie: It is much more serious. You see people, they laugh and they joke because somebody asked them the same question, two minutes later they ask them the same question and they think it's funny, but they don't understand that the reason they're asking is because they don't remember asking. And so it really is a damage to your brain of not remembering what you're doing.

Interviewer: And we're starting to understand a lot better now just exactly how devastating concussions can be over the long run. Talk about that a little bit.

Jamie: Yeah, so over the long run if you're continuing to do this damage you're going to start doing damage that doesn't get better. So you can cause emotional changes in that person, memory changes are a big thing in that brain where it's not recovering from the injuries that you're getting over time. Once you get a concussion, you want to wait and let your brain heal because if you're getting back to back to back concussions, that's when you're really going to start seeing emotional changes, cognitive changes like you can't think as well, you can't focus as well, changes in school, you can't do as well in school as you normally would do.

Interviewer: So when you get a concussion it's damaging the brain and just like any other damage that you would do to your body whether you cut yourself or whatever, it needs time to heal, otherwise you can have devastating repercussions. That's really kind of scary. Let's talk about, then, in terms of football, like say I have a son that's in football. They get what we believe to be a concussion. What should you do?
Jamie: So the good thing to do is you want them to rest. If you notice changes and they're not acting like themselves, you do want to take them in and get checked out by a doctor, definitely. You can bring them to the emergency room, is one of the best places, and just have them checked over and see if they think it's something worse that needs to be seen by a specialist or something like that. But they do need to be seen, and then they need to be not playing sports for at least a couple of weeks.

Interviewer: And then I would imagine the individual physician I would imagine it changes from case to case or is it usually two weeks for any sort of concussion?

Jamie: It really changes depending on how severe it is. So one thing that they would tell you is, especially we know all of our kids like to play video games. We like to text. We live in technology and you need to rest your brain. So really, your kids shouldn't be doing that when they get home.

Interviewer: And then, of course, the other danger too, is the kids want to get back out on the field, the coach wants the kids back out on the field so it can be really difficult to actually take that time. But you're saying that it is crucial to the rest of their life.

Jamie: It is crucial because they don't realize what's going to change growing up and how it's going to change their life that way. And yes, they want to get out and be part of the team, they want to get out and play, they want to get out and win and help out and that's the hardest thing is for them to know that they cannot do that.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts or anything that I forgot to ask? Or anything you feel compelled to say on this discussion about concussion?

Jamie: One thing I would just let everybody know is I know people think that you can't let someone sleep for 24 hours after a concussion. That is not true. You can just make sure that if you wake somebody up once in the night and they act normal, like themselves, if somebody wants to yell at you for waking them up and that's normal and that's what they do, that's okay. Just watching, being very cognizant of what symptoms are showing if they're not acting like themselves, and making sure that they do take the rest they need.

Interviewer: And take concussions seriously, we're learning.

Jamie: Very seriously.

Interviewer: And probably we're going to learn that they're a lot more serious than we even imagine now.

Jamie: I'm sure that we will.

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