Concussion Program

Multidisciplinary Approach to Diagnose and Treat Sports Concussions

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head or body, causing the brain to shake inside the skull. A concussion requires timely and thorough diagnosis and treatment. Loyola's Concussion Clinic can see and evaluate patients within 24 hours of the injury. Call Loyola’s Sports Injury Hotline at 708-216-4263 to make an appointment if you suspect concussion, whether it is from an accident, a fall or a sports injury.

Quick Concussion Facts

  • As many as 50 percent of concussions go undiagnosed.
  • The most common causes of concussions are sports injuries, falls and bicycle and car accidents.
  • A loss of consciousness is not required for a concussion to have occurred.
  • Those who have sustained a concussion are at a higher risk of having another, especially in the first 10 days.
  • Adolescents may hide their symptoms and require detailed questioning about how they are thinking and feeling.

Multidisciplinary Approach to Diagnose and Treat Concussions

At Loyola Medicine, we understand that a team approach is the best way to treat concussions in adults, adolescents and child athletes. That’s why we’ve assembled a nationally recognized group of specialists who can respond quickly when you are suspected of having a concussion. Loyola’s experienced, integrated team includes specialists from sports medicine, neurology, neuropsychology, neurosurgery, physical therapy and primary care.

During your visit at the Loyola Concussion Clinic, you may see multiple healthcare providers, from sports medicine physicians to neuropsychologists and physical therapists, depending on your symptoms and their severity. Our providers will consult with each other to develop a comprehensive coordinated plan of care that is tailored to your individual needs. Loyola’s unique approach to comprehensive care minimizes the need for multiple appointments and locations.

Whether you have a recent or prolonged concussion, our multidisciplinary team will help guide your return to your sport or activity. We will also coordinate with your child’s school to develop a customized plan to transition their return to academic studies.

Our doctors are leaders in the Chicago area in concussion education programs, speaking with schools and community groups on the causes, symptoms and problems associated with concussion.

As of 2011, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois state law require that every sports-related head injury be evaluated by a qualified medical professional prior to returning to the game.

 

Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms of concussion may not appear immediately and may be subtle. Possible symptoms include:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Light sensitivity
  • Loss of consciousness for a brief time
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Slurred speech (dysarthria)​

More serious concussion symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a longer period of time
  • Muscle weakness on one or both sides
  • Pupils of unequal size
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures
  • Unusual eye movements

Call Loyola’s Sports Injury Hotline at 708-216-4263 to make an appointment if you suspect concussion.

When a person is showing signs of concussion, it is crucial to keep them out of situations that could lead to another concussion, possibly resulting in second-impact syndrome, a concussion complication that can lead to death.

Causes and Risk Factors

A concussion occurs from a blow to the head or body. The most common causes of concussions are sports injuries, falls and bicycle and car accidents. If you experience or notice someone else exhibiting the signs of concussion, it is important to seek immediate professional medical help. Do not return to play or any physical activity until you have been evaluated by a healthcare professional. If you are an athlete, you will need written medical clearance from a healthcare professional stating you are symptom-free before you can return to play. You also should be cleared by your doctor before you return to school or work and before resuming all of your regular activities.

Sports that have a higher associated risk of concussion include football, rugby, hockey, and soccer. Sports with the least risk include softball, volleyball and gymnastics. 

Tests and Diagnosis

In order to evaluate your condition, your Loyola doctor will assess your symptoms, conduct a neurological exam and review your medical history.

If you’re suspected of having a concussion, the multidisciplinary team at Loyola will use a number of screenings to make a diagnosis, including assessment tools that evaluate memory, concentration, thinking ability, pupil size, vision, strength and reflexes. Some imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI may be used. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used if you are continuing to experience seizures.

For patients with prolonged concussion symptoms, our neuropsychologist will perform a neuropsychological evaluation.

Treatment and Care

The most important treatment for a concussion is rest for your body and brain. It’s important to give yourself time to get better and slowly return to your regular activities.

You should also:

  • Limit mental exertion and visual activity at school or work.
  • Avoid physical activity unless cleared by a doctor.
  • Get consistent, quality sleep on a regular schedule once your doctor has evaluated you.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Eat a healthy diet on a regular schedule.
  • Limit medication and supplements to those prescribed/recommended by your doctor.
  • Avoid sustained exposure to light, sound and motion (e.g., smartphone).

During your visit at the Loyola Concussion Clinic, you may see multiple healthcare providers, from sports medicine physicians to neuropsychologists and physical therapists, depending on your symptoms and their severity. Our providers will consult with each other to develop a comprehensive coordinated plan of care that is tailored to your individual needs. Loyola’s unique approach to comprehensive care minimizes the need for multiple appointments and locations.

Complications Post-concussion

For the brain to fully heal, it is important to follow the activity restrictions ordered by your Loyola doctor. An additional injury to the brain before the first injury has time to heal may lead to second-impact syndrome or prolonged concussion symptoms. This is a serious condition in which permanent brain damage or even death can occur.

Some patients experience continuing symptoms over a period of months, known as post-concussive syndrome. Loyola offers several treatment protocols for long-term concussion management — including a specialized exercise treadmill protocol for post-concussive symptoms, which allows us to monitor your symptoms while under exertion or stress. We also offer a vestibular rehabilitation program, in which our physical therapists tailor individualized exercise programs to reduce dizziness and improve balance and motion sensitivities. 

Return to Learn

Just as an athlete should not return to a sport without complete medical care and clearance, teens and children need to recover from concussion before returning to the classroom and resuming all of their regular activities.

Patients who have suffered a concussion may look perfectly healthy when their brain has not fully healed. They may continue to suffer cognitive difficulties that interfere with learning and memory. The bright light, noise and fast pace of the school environment and the effort of trying to learn before full recovery may worsen concussion symptoms. They may even delay healing.

Not only does the brain need physical rest from sports and play, it also needs “cognitive rest,” a break from active, focused thinking. Cognitive rest allows the brain to have the energy it needs to repair itself. The transition from rest to full cognitive recovery differs from patient to patient and each needs a plan tailored to their needs.

Our multidisciplinary team will help guide the patient’s return to learning and coordinate with the school to develop a customized plan to ease the return to the classroom. Loyola’s integrated concussion care team includes a neuropsychologist, who is an expert in assessing and guiding cognitive recovery from concussion and other brain injuries. Loyola's Concussion Clinic team is committed to the patient's healthy and successful return to school.