We strongly believe in educating and informing patients on the effects and treatment of all types of head injuries in all age groups. If you believe you have suffered a concussion, please seek treatment immediately. Our goal is to help you achieve optimal health with minimal invasiveness.
What causes a concussion?
Your brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by your hard skull. Normally, the fluid around your brain acts like a cushion that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. But if your head or your body is hit hard, your brain can crash into your skull, or be jolted, literally causing it to move around in your head. This force can injure the brain, causing bruising, damage to the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. The result? Your brain doesn’t function normally. If you’ve suffered a concussion, vision may be disturbed, you may lose equilibrium, or you may fall unconscious. In short, the brain is confused.
There are many ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or snowboarding.
However, concussions don’t always involve a loss of consciousness. Most people who have a concussion never pass out, but they may describe seeing all white, black, or stars. You can have a concussion and not realize it.
You don’t have to pass out (lose consciousness) to have a concussion. Some people will have obvious symptoms of a concussion, such as passing out or forgetting what happened right before the injury. But other people won’t. With rest, most people fully recover from a concussion within 7 to 10 days. Other people take a few weeks or months to recover. In rare cases, concussions cause more serious problems. Repeated concussions or a severe concussion may require surgery or lead to long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking. Because of the small chance of permanent brain problems, it is important to contact a concussion specialist if you or someone you know has symptoms of a concussion.
Studies in basic neuroscience have demonstrated that mild traumatic brain injury (concussion) is followed by a complex cascade of ionic, metabolic, and physiological events that can adversely affect cerebral function for several days to weeks. Concussive brain injuries trigger a sequence of biochemical changes characterized earliest by an indiscriminate release of excitatory amino acids, massive ionic flux, and a brief period of hyperglycolysis, followed by persistent metabolic instability, mitochondrial dysfunction, diminished cerebral glucose metabolism, reduced cerebral blood flow, and altered neurotransmission. These events culminate in axonal injury and neuronal dysfunction. Clinically, concussion eventuates in neurological deficits, cognitive impairment, and somatic symptoms.
The terms concussion, mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), and minor head trauma may be used interchangeably. Head injury, closed head injury, head trauma, brain injury, diffuse axonal injury, goose-egg, bump on the head, postconcussive syndrome, “seeing stars”, and “getting your bell rung” are also terms commonly used interchangeably with concussion.
Concussion Facts, Myths, and What to Avoid
- Symptoms can be subtle, such as a headache or feeling sluggish.
- Symptoms may not surface until 48 to 72 hours after the injury.
- Recovery is different for every person who sustains a concussion, thus recovery time cannot and should not be predetermined until after medical evaluation and post-concussion evaluation by a certified athletic trainer.
- Myth: You have to have loss of consciousness to have sustained a concussion.
Reality: Studies show that less than 10% of concussions result in loss of consciousness.
- Myth: Concussions are only a result of a direct blow to the head.
Reality: A concussion can be sustained by a sudden, violent movement of the head caused by an unexpected external force to the body.
- Myth: You need to wake someone with a concussion every 20 minutes.
Reality: You only need to check on a concussed athlete periodically.
- Myth: You need to check pupils with a flashlight to see if they are dilated or uneven.
Reality: Any response to the pupils is indicative of a much more serious brain injury. Typically, this is only present when the injured individual is unconscious. Therefore, if the athlete is coherently speaking to you, there is no need to check their pupils.
What to avoid and do when a concussion is suspected: (Things that should be considered so recovery is not delayed.)
- An athlete should avoid performing activities that increase their symptoms.
- Avoid loud noises ( Music, TV, band practices, or listening to an IPOD)
- Limit texting, reading, video games, typing, or internet use. All of these activities cause an increase in cognitive function which puts a strain on the brain.
- Avoid any over-the-counter medications (Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Aleve) that may mask any symptoms, unless advised otherwise by a physician.
- If studying is needed to be done for a quiz or test the next day or that week, the school nurse, athletic director, administrator, and/or guidance counselor should be contacted and made aware that a concussion is suspected and postponement of any quizzes or exams may be needed.
- Initially, reduced cognitive activity (ie school) may be appropriate. However, there is no research that supports prolonged removal from school.
REMEMBER: There is no such thing as a minor head injury. Symptoms may become worse with exertion or possible rest. Athlete should not return to play until cleared by medical personnel. Consult an athletic trainer or concussion expert immediately if any signs or symptoms are reported or observed.