Sports Concussions​​

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What Is a Concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a direct or indirect hit to your head or body.

Your brain sits inside your skull surrounded by fluid. When your head takes a hit — as often happens in contact sports — your brain shifts or shakes around inside the skull.

The impact damages your brain cells, causing chemical and cellular changes in the brain.

Concussion causes and risk factors

The most common cause of a concussion is a hard, direct hit to the head in contact sports. It can also happen from an indirect hit that causes your head to jerk, like when you get whiplash.

Sports that increase an athlete's risk of head trauma include:

  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Soccer

Younger athletes and females tend to take longer to get better from concussions.

Concussion side effects and complications

Side effects of a concussion cause changes in how the brain functions, such as reduced reaction time. This can increase your chance of getting another concussion if you return to play before seeking treatment.

Repeated concussions can cause problems such as lasting cognitive issues.

No athlete should return to the game until all symptoms are gone and a doctor has cleared him or her to play.

Why choose UPMC for concussion treatment?

Every concussion is unique. There are six clinical types, based on concussion signs and symptoms.

This is why — when it comes to concussion treatment — there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model.

The experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program have been leading concussion treatment for more than a decade.

Our team tailors active concussion recovery programs to meet each person's:

  • Goals
  • Lifestyle
  • Symptoms

Make an appointment for concussion care

If you — or your coaches, parents, or athletic trainers — suspect you have a concussion, it's crucial that you:

  • Stop playing your sport right away.
  • See a health professional specially trained in concussion care.

To make an appointment or learn more about concussions, contact the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at 412-432-3681.

Learn more about concussions

Learn how UPMC Sports Medicine is ReThinking Concussions or see the links below (links open a new browser window):

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Concussion Symptoms, Signs, and Diagnosis

The warning signs of a concussion aren't always obvious. Few people lose consciousness because of it.

In fact, concussion “knocks out” only about 10 percent of people who sustain the mild traumatic brain injury.

Concussion signs and symptoms

The most common symptoms of concussion are:

  • Headache or migraine
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive trouble (fogginess, attention problems, memory problems)
  • Changes in mood
  • Sleeping problems

Concussion diagnosis

No two concussions are the same.

A doctor trained in diagnosing and managing concussions will need to perform a detailed exam and cognitive test. This will help him or her tell the grade and severity of the concussion.

During the concussion exam, your doctor will check your:

  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Reflexes
  • Balance and coordination
  • Memory
  • Attention span

Concussion testing and exams

Because each head injury is unique, the team of specialists at UPMC works closely to test and treat your concussion.

Cognitive tests — such as ImPACT® (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) — are key tools we use to diagnose signs of a concussion.

The ImPACT test looks at your:

  • Verbal and visual memory.
  • Brain processing speed.
  • Reaction time.

Cognitive tests alone cannot diagnose a concussion.

You may also have a neurovestibular exam as part of the first evaluation. This exam looks for vestibular, balance, and vision problems that often occur with a concussion.

Your doctor may order imaging tests — such as MRI or CT scans — to make sure there's no bruising or bleeding in your brain.

To confirm a concussion diagnosis, your doctor will use the data from your:

  • Exam and interview.
  • ImPACT or other cognitive tests.
  • Imaging and any other test results.

Make an appointment to diagnose your concussion symptoms

To make an appointment or learn more about concussion symptoms and tests, call the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at 412-432-3681.

Learn more about concussion symptoms and testing

Learn how UPMC Sports Medicine is ReThinking Concussions or see the links below (links open a new browser window):

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Concussion Treatment

Anyone who suspects a concussion should stop activity and seek medical care right away. Early treatment is the best way to recover faster and prevent further injury.

At the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, we tailor treatment plans based on each person's unique needs and concussion symptoms.

Treatment goals focus on healing your symptoms and allowing your brain to recover.

Treatment options for concussion

UPMC Sports Medicine offers many concussion treatment options including:

  • Physical and behavioral therapy.
  • Inner ear (vestibular) or eye therapy.
  • Training exercises to promote motor skills, balance, and reflexes.
  • Exertion training.
  • Medicine.

Make an appointment for concussion treatment

To make an appointment or learn more about concussion management and treatment, call the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at 412-432-3681.

Learn more about concussion treatment

Learn how UPMC Sports Medicine is ReThinking Concussions or see the links below (links open a new browser window):

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Concussion Education and Resources

When you suffer from a concussion, you can turn to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

We believe that learning more about concussions makes a difference in your recovery and helps prevent future head injuries. That's why we've compiled this list of resources.

If you still have questions or just want to talk to one of our concussion experts, call 412-432-3681.

General concussion info

Learn how UPMC Sports Medicine is ReThinking Concussions or see the links below (links open a new browser window):

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Concussion symptoms and diagnosis

The links below will open a new browser window.

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Concussion treatment, management, and prevention

The links below will open a new browser window.

UPMC's HealthBeat Blog:

From our Health Library:

Contact the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program

To make an appointment or learn more about concussions, contact the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program at 412-432-3681.

Where you'll find us

UPMC Rooney Sports Complex
3200 South Water St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
8000 Cranberry Springs Drive
Cranberry Township, PA 16066