The concussion experts at OHSU treat most stages of injury for children and adults. We bring specialists together as a team for your care.
- A variety of specialists, including neurologists, psychologists and rehabilitation therapists.
- Sports medicine experts to treat every aspect of athletic-related concussions, including evaluating when your child can return to sports and school.
- The most sophisticated imaging tests.
- Doctors with the expertise to give you a precise diagnosis.
What to do after a possible concussion
- Stop physical activity.
- Do one of the following right away:
- Call your doctor.
- Call the OHSU Concussion Clinic at 503-494-1950.
- Go to a hospital.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a mild — but still serious — traumatic brain injury. Normally, liquid surrounding the brain cushions it against jostling and bumps. In a concussion, the brain is shaken or jolted with enough force to cause it to twist or bounce inside the skull.
Short- and long-term effects can include:
- Changes in memory and reasoning
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Blurry or double vision
- Changes in the ability to communicate and understand
- Emotional changes such as depression, anxiety, aggression and personality changes
- Trouble sleeping
Anything that shakes or jolts the brain can cause a concussion. Causes can include:
- Car and bike accidents
- Falls, especially for young children and older adults
- Contact sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey or boxing
- Physical activities without proper safety gear or supervision
- Physical abuse
Having one concussion raises the risk of a second one because your brain is more vulnerable while healing. Your balance and judgment also may be impaired, making a second injury more likely.
Signs and symptoms of concussion
Signs and symptoms of a concussion may develop right away, or after hours or days. They go away within 10 days for about 80% of people, according to the National Institutes of Health, but last longer for others. They can include:
- Unable to remember events before, during or after the injury
- Blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting (early on)
- Ringing in ears
- Trouble speaking or finding the right words
- Changes in mood or personality
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Problems with sleep
Diagnosing a concussion
Concussions can be difficult to identify because symptoms may develop over hours or days. At OHSU, you’ll find specialists with the expertise to give you a clear diagnosis.
Tests may include:
- A neurological exam to test your vision, balance, hearing, strength and reflexes.
- A cognitive (thinking) test to evaluate your memory and ability to concentrate.
- Rarely, spending a night in a hospital to make sure your symptoms aren’t severe.
At OHSU, your doctor or care team will recommend a treatment plan for your specific needs. Specialists may include:
- Sports medicine doctors
- Athletic trainers who specialize in concussion
- Physical, occupational and speech-language therapists
- Neurologists who specialize in headache management
- Pain medicine doctors to help with headaches and spine pain
- Psychologists to help you cope with concussion symptoms
Care can include:
Rest: Both mental and physical rest are important in the first few days after you are diagnosed with a concussion. Avoid sports or vigorous movement, which could make your symptoms worse. Your doctor will help you ease back to regular activity.
Pain relief: You may have headaches in the days and even weeks after a concussion. Your doctor may recommend pain treatments or medication.
Rehabilitation: You might benefit from physical, occupational or speech therapy to help you improve:
- Balance and movement
- Vision and perception
- Thinking and processing
Neuropsychological care: A neuropsychologist will evaluate your thinking, mood and behavior. The doctor can help you regain function, and improve sleep and quality of life.
Athletic training: A certified athletic trainer will gather records to go over your medical history. The trainer also:
- Does intake and follow-up assessments.
- Teaches you exercises, and provides other education and handouts.
- Helps you make progress toward returning to play or work.
- Serves as your concussion care manager.
Returning to school and sports
Providers from many specialties work together to tailor a plan for each patient.
- Students: We help identify accommodations the student needs to return to school, and we ease the transition. We follow Oregon School Activities Association guidelines.
- Athletes: We determine when it’s safe to return play based on OSAA guidelines. Our specialists can interpret results of testing (the ImPACT Concussion Test) to offer guidance.
- For a sports-related head injury, please call the OHSU Concussion Clinic at 503-494-1950 to make an appointment.
- For an emergency, please call 911 or go to an emergency room.
- For all other head injuries, please ask your primary care provider for a referral.
Transfer a patient
Tips for families
Dr. Jim Chesnutt, an OHSU expert on concussions, offers information to help you weigh the pros and cons of contact sports.