Richard Gibson

Diagnosis and Treatment of Concussions with Dr. Richard Gibson

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A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, jolt, or sudden movement to the head that causes some alteration in mental status ranging from mild confusion to full loss of consciousness. While most concussions are benign, they can be serious and should be evaluated by a medical professional to look for signs of short- and long-term effects, according to Richard Gibson, M.D. of Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee. They are, unfortunately, a common occurrence most often related to motor vehicle accidents, falls, occupational accidents, or sports-related injuries. The signs of a concussion may be obvious, but are often subtle and may not be present immediately.  Because of this, it is important to have a comprehensive examination by a qualified medical professional if a concussion is suspected. Once diagnosed, it is necessary to get the proper amount of rest and treatment to facilitate a full recovery.

Specializing in the evaluation and non-operative treatment of orthopaedic injuries, Dr. Gibson focuses on the evaluation and treatment of concussions and related injuries. He is a board-certified family and sports medicine physician who joined the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee team in September 2021. Originally from Maryville, Tennessee, he grew up admiring his father’s career as a family medicine physician and team doctor for Maryville College. He earned his undergraduate degrees from the University of Tennessee, his Doctor of Medicine from East Tennessee State University, completed his family medicine residency at Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, Florida, and his fellowship training occurred at American Sports Medicine Institute, founded by the world-renowned sports medicine specialist Dr. James Andrews. He is the current team physician at Page High School.

Williamson Source: Today we are talking about concussions. What exactly is a concussion? 

Dr. Richard Gibson: A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by contact, acceleration or deceleration. It is any head injury that produces an alteration in mental status. Symptoms can be mild like dizziness or severe like loss of consciousness. Other symptoms include headache, loss of balance, double vision, nausea, or sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes the symptoms are more subtle findings like irritability, fatigue, or just not feeling normal.

WS: When should a patient seek medical attention?

Dr. Gibson: Any time you have a head injury you should seek medical treatment, especially if you develop symptoms after the event.

Athletic trainers and physicians on the sidelines of a sporting event evaluate all athletes after they experience a head injury on the field or if they have any complaints after having experienced a head injury. On the sidelines, we do a quick neurological exam focused on strength, balance, dizziness, and eye movements. We also ask them a lot of questions to gauge their orientation or check for confusion. If this happens during a football game for example, we ask the athlete if they know where they are, how much time is on the clock, the game’s score, or if they remember the last play call.

If a concussion is suspected, the athlete will be pulled from the game and follow up with a physician for a full neurologic exam. In our office, we put them through a SCAT (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) evaluation which tests memory, balance, and cognitive abilities. The questionnaire looks at red flags like severe or increasing headache, neck pain or tenderness, agitation, seizures, observable signs from a witness or video, memory assessment, coma assessment, and spine assessment.

We are lucky to be in Williamson County where we also do ImPACT testing on most of our athletes to be able to get some objective data about their cognitive function before and after a suspected concussion. The computer-based test looks at things like verbal memory, visual memory and reaction time. When an athlete has a possible concussion, we can run those test results against their baseline to see if there are any subtle deficits. If there are any concerns, we make them stay out of their sport until they are fully recovered.

WS: How long does it take to recover from a concussion?

Dr. Gibson: Average recovery time is one to three weeks, but it is not abnormal for it to take longer, even several months, to fully recover.

WS: Are there long-term effects?

Dr. Gibson: The likelihood of long-term effects goes up when there is one concussion on top of another, especially when the second head injury occurs before the first is healed.

WS: How can a concussion be prevented?

Make sure to use safety equipment, have good form in your sport, follow good coaching, and be ready to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion in yourself or your teammates.

The most important thing to do if you receive a head injury is to be evaluated by a medical professional and to take steps to prevent injury again.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from a concussion, contact Dr. Gibson at Bone and Joint Institute of TennesseeDr. Gibson can be reached at (615) 791-2630. Or schedule an appointment online.