- Seek emergency care for anyone who experiences a head injury and has: a loss of consciousness lasting more than a minute; repeated vomiting; seizures; unequal pupils; obvious difficulty with mental function or physical coordination.
- Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion and report your injuries to your supervisors. If you have had your “bell rung” you have had a concussion.
- Recognize subtle hints that a peer may have experienced a concussion after any head trauma. Take a detailed history of the event and the subject’s complaints.
- A concussion is not always a medical emergency. However, the CDC reports that people with a concussion should be seen by a health care professional. This is especially important in the very young and the elderly who may not be able to verbalize their symptoms. At least a call to your health provider is in order.
- If an individual does not seek emergency care he/she needs to be monitored by someone for 12-24 hours to observe for changes in brain functioning, arousal, consciousness.
- Bleeding can occur under the scalp at the site of the head injury resulting in a hematoma (commonly referred to as a "goose egg"). To decrease this swelling ice may applied for 20-30 minutes about every two to four hours for up to 48 hours.
- No one should return to any vigorous activity, which may include work, while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present; usually 7-10 days.
- Training officers need to punch without causing head injury.
- There must be no stigma attached with any head injury, no matter how superficial it may seem on the surface.
- After a concussion only take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache. Aspirin or ibuprofen may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Avoid medicines or substances that cause drowsiness or changes in level of consciousness: narcotic pain medicines, alcohol, sleeping aids, muscle relaxants, or tranquilizers--the symptoms produced by all of these drugs are similar to those of increasing pressure within the brain, and may mask important symptoms of a worsening condition.
- Practice and teach safety and injury prevention: Wear appropriate protective gear that fits properly, is well maintained, and worn correctly. Always buckle your seat belt, make sure airbags are functional. Keep your home and work place safe. However, be aware, there is no protective gear that can significantly prevent concussions from occurring. Helmets are designed to protect against high-impact collisions that could crack the skull, they do not have the design or technology to prevent concussions.
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About The Author:
Pamela Kulbarsh, RN, BSW has been a psychiatric nurse for over 25 years. She has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past ten years. She has worked in patrol with officers and deputies as a member of San Diego's Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) and at the Pima County Detention Center in Tucson. Pam has been a frequent guest speaker related to psychiatric emergencies and has published articles in both law enforcement and nursing magazines.