You thought roller skating with your kids would be a fun thing to do. You’re a service member, in shape and unafraid of new challenges. You get the skates, find the route and off you go to practice by yourself. Then down you go from an unseen pothole. Bump! Your pride takes a big hit and so does your head. At some point you remember thinking, “Always wear a helmet.” That day you didn’t.
What you decide next may set the stage for the next few hours, days, weeks or months. Do you pick up and go home and just not mention the incident? Or, maybe you decide it couldn’t hurt to get checked out by a health care provider. Here’s why the second choice is a better idea:
- You could have a traumatic brain injury — the result of a blow or jolt to your head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts your thinking, vision and other brain functions. Not all blows or jolts result in a brain injury.
- If you have a concussion, you have a brain injury. Concussion is the most common type of brain injury.
- You may experience headaches, dizziness, attention and memory problems, fatigue, irritability, vision changes, balance problems, mood changes and sleep difficulties -- these are common symptoms following a concussion.
- If you think you don’t have a brain injury because the blow or jolt occurred while playing basketball or falling off a ladder, not from a bomb blast, think again. More than 80 percent of brain injuries in the military occur outside of the battlefield setting.
- If you think you don’t have a concussion because you didn’t lose consciousness, you could be wrong. Indications of a concussion:
- alteration of consciousness lasting less than 24 hours
- loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes
- amnesia lasting less than 24 hours
- Waiting to see if you feel better later before getting checked out by your health care provider could be a mistake. Early detection leads to early treatment. Early treatment leads to better recovery, best possible outcomes.
- If you have a concussion, chances are you’ll recover quickly, within a few hours to a few weeks. However, there’s a small chance your symptoms will last longer than three months. Again, early treatment leads to better outcomes.
- If you don’t know that you’ve have a concussion, you’re at risk of sustaining another one during the time your brain may be healing. That increases the chances your symptoms will last longer and you’ll have long-lasting effects.
- You’ll understand the meaning and importance of rest after sustaining a concussion.
- Reaching out for help is a sign of strength that benefits you, your family, your unit and the joint force.
Although sometimes the symptoms of a concussion are subtle, don’t be subtle in your response to a blow or jolt to your head. Get it checked. And, always wear a helmet.