A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, but can cause significant symptoms and ongoing brain impairment. Concussions can result from a force or impact to the head, most commonly during a high-contact sport, a fall or a bike or car accident.
OHSU provides full-service care for concussion management, including treatment, research, education and community outreach through our OHSU Sports Concussion Program—the only program of its kind in Oregon.
Symptoms of a concussion include impaired memory, prolonged headaches, visual disturbances, balance issues, irritability, sleep disturbance and fatigue.
First stop playing your sport and rest. This includes both mental and physical rest. Rest is very important after a concussion: It helps the brain heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to “tough it out” often makes symptoms worse. Everyone heals differently: Be patient and realize that symptoms take time to go away. We now recommend early but gradual return to light non-contact exercise and activities to help stimulate recovery, but this is best managed by your health care professional.
If you have a history of chronic headaches, anxiety or depression, it may take longer or make it more difficult to adjust to the symptoms of a concussion. It is important that you avoid any further concussions or hits to the head during the healing process.
Early management of concussions can make a big difference in identifying the symptoms and getting you back to sports or work sooner: It’s best to first see your primary care or sports medicine provider for concussion treatment. But if your symptoms don’t get better in 2-3 weeks, national guidelines recommend referral to a concussion specialty program.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms, go to the Emergency Room:
- Loss of consciousness
- One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
- Convulsions or seizures
- Increased confusion; cannot recognize people or places
- Unusual behavior; unable to walk or talk normally
- Repeated vomiting
A concussion specialist has experience in caring for concussions and understanding the many issues that may come up. Concussion specialists can also help you develop a thorough recovery plan based on your lifestyle. They usually collaborate with a therapy team, allowing for a thorough evaluation of your condition.
The OHSU Sports Concussion Program addresses every part of sports concussions, from on-field assessment and physician evaluations to rehabilitation and return to academics and sports. Our team, located at the OHSU Center for Healing on Portland’s South Waterfront and at OHSU Gabriel Park clinic includes sports medicine doctors; physical, occupational and speech-language therapists; counselors; neurologists; neurosurgeons; neuropsychologists; and athletic trainers specializing in concussion.
Brain Matters is a youth outreach group led by teens and young adults who mentor young people on recovery, advocacy, and brain health. The group is facilitated by Tyler Duffield, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychology fellow with the OHSU Sports Medicine program who specializes in concussion/mTBI, but the group functions autonomously through member participation. The Brain Matters group meets once a month to discuss concussion topics and plan outreach projects. See the Brain Matters flyer for more information.
About Dr. Jim Chesnutt
Dr. Chesnutt is widely considered to be the leading expert on concussion management in Oregon: His expertise on concussion evaluation and treatment sets a national standard.
As a sports medicine and family doctor, Dr. Chesnutt is dedicated to concussion education and its early management to improve public health. He helps educate providers as well as the community on how to best diagnose, treat and help people recover from concussions. Dr. Chesnutt and the concussion program team also work with numerous community-based organizations to help with pre-season concussion testing and education of coaches, athletes and families.
In the video below, Dr. Chesnutt discusses concussion treatment and how OHSU's research helps local athletes.