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Why Are Head Injury Symptoms Sometimes Delayed?

Even though a head injury that doesn’t knock you out may not seem dangerous, it’s essential to get prompt medical attention and to rest after what could be a concussion. Because symptoms can be delayed, this may cause the mistaken impression you are not hurt, but the consequences of, say, continuing to play a contact sport, can be dire. It can even lead to permanent neurological damage or death. There have even been reports of athletes who continue playing after suffering a concussion who then suffer a second blow to the head dying shortly after the second impact.

Even a mild concussion is still a traumatic brain injury, even if there are no symptoms at first. That’s because the brain takes time to heal after a blow or violent shaking of the head. There is a risk of other injuries, as well, such as brain swelling or bleeding, that can be life-threatening. That’s why it’s always important to closely monitor a head injury and to pick up on subtle signs of a concussion. Even though a person may initially look or act normal, there still may be a problem.

Signs of a mild traumatic brain injury include:

  • Increasing confusion
  • Worsening headache
  • Light sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of smell
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Personality changes
  • Poor concentration
  • Visual disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Slowness in thinking
  • Nausea and vomiting

A Second Head Injury Shortly After a Concussion Can Be Deadly

When someone experiences a second concussion within a given period as long as a few weeks, the consequences can be deadly. Called second impact syndrome, this is a term first described in the 1980s. It describes what happens to the brain after a second head injury, such as brain swelling and herniation. A brain hernia puts a person into a vegetative state, and death often follows. Although this condition is very rare, and not all cases have even been documented, there are cases where second impact syndrome or residual symptoms of a second concussion have led to death. The fact is, the more concussions a person sustains, even if they are not in rapid succession, the more dangerous it is for them.  

What Should I Do After a Head Injury?

Once you have injured your head, no matter the circumstances, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible for treatment. On your way to the doctor, rest, sit down, place a cold compress on the injured area for 20 minutes, and, most importantly, avoid reinjury. The best thing you can do after sustaining a head injury is to go a doctor or call 9-1-1. This is especially true for children or infants.

In the days following a concussion, you are advised to avoid caffeine, sleep at least 8 hours in a 24-hour period, have someone check on you to ensure your symptoms aren’t worsening, avoid screen time, and take a break from mentally demanding activities, such as physical work or even things that require mental focus, such as a video game. Take care to avoid alcohol consumption and make sure you eat a healthy diet.

In the week after your head injury, you should follow your doctor’s advice, but in general, you can start adding physical activity back into your routine. You should always get a doctor’s clearance before you participate in sports where there is a risk of reinjury. Most importantly, keep in touch with your doctor, especially if your symptoms don’t improve within 7 to 10 days. Call sooner if you are concerned.

Contact us at QualCare Rehabilitation and Allied Medical Centers for an appointment by dialing  (713) 588-0042 today.