Soccer players heading ballA concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, but can cause significant symptoms and ongoing brain impairment. Concussions can result from a force or impact to the head, most commonly during a high-contact sport, a fall or a bike or car accident.

OHSU provides full-service care for concussion management, including treatment, research, education and community outreach through our OHSU Sports Concussion Program—the only program of its kind in Oregon.

What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

Symptoms of a concussion include impaired memory, prolonged headaches, visual disturbances, balance issues, irritability, sleep disturbance and fatigue.

Concussion signs and symptoms chart

What should you do if you may have a concussion?

First stop playing your sport and rest. This includes both mental and physical rest. Rest is very important after a concussion: It helps the brain heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to “tough it out” often makes symptoms worse. Everyone heals differently: Be patient and realize that symptoms take time to go away. We now recommend early but gradual return to light non-contact exercise and activities to help stimulate recovery, but this is best managed by your health care professional.

If you have a history of chronic headaches, anxiety or depression, it may take longer or make it more difficult to adjust to the symptoms of a concussion. It is important that you avoid any further concussions or hits to the head during the healing process.

Early management of concussions can make a big difference in identifying the symptoms and getting you back to sports or work sooner: It’s best to first see your primary care or sports medicine provider for concussion treatment. But if your symptoms don’t get better in 2-3 weeks, national guidelines recommend referral to a concussion specialty program.

When should I go to the Emergency Room?

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms, go to the Emergency Room:

  1. Loss of consciousness
  2. One pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other
  3. Convulsions or seizures
  4. Increased confusion; cannot recognize people or places
  5. Unusual behavior; unable to walk or talk normally
  6. Repeated vomiting

Why should I see a concussion specialist?

A concussion specialist has experience in caring for concussions and understanding the many issues that may come up. Concussion specialists can also help you develop a thorough recovery plan based on your lifestyle. They usually collaborate with a therapy team, allowing for a thorough evaluation of your condition.

The OHSU Sports Concussion Program addresses every part of sports concussions, from on-field assessment and physician evaluations to rehabilitation and return to academics and sports. Our team, located at the OHSU Center for Healing on Portland’s South Waterfront and at OHSU Gabriel Park clinic includes sports medicine doctors; physical, occupational and speech-language therapists; counselors; neurologists; neurosurgeons; neuropsychologists; and athletic trainers specializing in concussion.

Research studies

OHSU is conducting two research studies related to concussions. One study is designed to determine how to make rehabilitation better for people with concussions and the other study is designed to determine when people are safely ready to return to their sport or occupation after a concussion. You can read more about the studies here.

If you are interested in participating in one of these studies please email or call 503-418-2602.

Brain Matters

Brain Matters Outreach group flyerBrain Matters is a youth outreach group led by teens and young adults who mentor young people on recovery, advocacy, and brain health. The group is facilitated by Tyler Duffield, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychology fellow with the OHSU Sports Medicine program who specializes in concussion/mTBI, but the group functions autonomously through member participation. The Brain Matters group meets once a month to discuss concussion topics and plan outreach projects. See the Brain Matters flyer for more information.