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After a Concussion: What to Do

How to help your brain get better after a concussion.
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By Eric Metcalf, MPH
WebMD Feature

Have you ever hit your head in a game or after a fall -- and felt anything like this afterward:

  • Have trouble concentrating.
  • Get distracted easily by noises and lights.
  • Feel "zoned out."
  • Have trouble focusing on your homework.
  • Forget to do assignments.
  • Forget stuff you learned recently, including things your parents asked you to do.
  • Feeling really tired and sleepy
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Have trouble keeping your balance

Then guess what -- you may have had a concussion. And it's a big deal.

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Even the NFL is concerned about concussions. You should be, too, because a concussion is a type of brain injury.

Don't panic. Your brain can recover, but you need to give it a break while it's healing. Here's how, and why.

Concussions Can Leave You with a "Slow Computer"

Your healthy brain works like the best computer you can buy, says David Coppel, PhD, a sports concussion expert at the University of Washington. But after a concussion, your brain acts more like the ancient computers your parents used in the 1990s. Game over. 

To get back up to speed ASAP, your brain needs downtime. And you're probably not going to like what it involves.

"No video games, no texting, no using the computer, and no watching TV," says Tracey Covassin, PhD, an athletic trainer and concussion expert at Michigan State University. Even though games, texting, and watching TV seem simple, your brain has to work to keep track of what’s happening on the screen. That's why you need to take a break from them after a concussion.

For how long? About 7-10 days, in most cases. Of course, your doctor has the last word on exactly how much time you need.

See your doctor before you get back to your normal routine, even if you're feeling fine. And go straight to a doctor if your symptoms (such as headaches, confusion, memory problems, or vomiting) get worse.

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