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What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when the brain is jostled in the skull as a result of a biomechanical force (e.g., hit from another person/object). There are 2 stages of injury, the primary impact and a secondary injury from the stretching and shearing of neural tissue. Energy is needed to repair the stressed brain cells, which diverts resources away from supporting normal brain function. This results in the signs and symptoms of a concussion, including cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical changes.

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Is a concussion a "brain bruise"?

Contrary to what many people think, a concussion is not a "brain bruise" because the brain is not bleeding. If clinical scans do detect blood, then the injury is generally considered to be a moderate or severe TBI. Like a bruise though, a concussion will normally get better on its own without lasting damage.

How long is recovery?

Finding a balance between physical/cognitive rest and returning to normal life after a concussion is tricky. Research shows that playing sports through a concussion may prolong your recovery. But remaining inactive and avoiding cognitive/physical activities after a brief period of rest can also contribute to persistent symptoms.

Is it safe to sleep immediately after a concussion?

One of the biggest concussion myths is that you shouldn't sleep after the injury. While it is important to be immediately evaluated by a medical professional, in general, avoiding sleep will only worsen concussion symptoms. Check with your medical provider for recommendations if you have experienced a concussion.

Are CTE and concussion related?

There is very little agreement in the scientific community about the role of concussions in disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). While some studies show increased risk of CTE in football players, others demonstrate that rates of dementia in players are not significantly higher than the general population.

Thank you to Aliyah Snyder Owen, PhD for her expertise in writing the content for this page! She is currently a neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow. She works with patients and conducts research as part of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program. Her research focuses on how to improve concussion recovery through exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy.

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