With football season starting, concussions are more top of mind than ever. Here's what you need to know.
A concussion is type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is usually caused by blunt blow or violent shaking to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth rapidly. This sudden movement of the brain can cause damage of the brain cells and create chemical changes in the brain.
Concussions are very common, especially during contact sports activities. The brain is well protected inside the skull, however, a blunt head trauma may cause the brain to slide back and forth against the inner lining of skull. The brain tissue being extremely delicate may be distorted causing the signs and symptoms of concussion. It leads to alteration of brain function that is usually temporary. The duration of symptoms may vary from days to years. In the majority of cases, symptoms resolve within days.
Symptoms of concussion may include:
- Brief (<30 sec) loss of consciousness
- Appearing dazed
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurring of vision
- Loss of memory of events surrounding the trauma (Amnesia)
Some delayed and longer lasting symptoms may include
- Personality changes
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Inability to concentrate
- Depression and other psychological problems
Symptoms may be subtle and often times difficult to judge in children especially young children who may not be able to communicate how they feel. In young children, the following signs may be present after a brain injury:
- Loss of interest in playful activities
- Persistent vomiting
- Drowsiness and increased sleepiness
- Excessive crying
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
Potential complications of a concussion include:
- Post-concussion syndrome. A collection of symptoms including headaches, dizziness, mood swings, personality changes, fatigue, and thinking difficulties that develop a few days after a concussion.
- Post-traumatic headaches. Headaches that occur a few days to weeks after a concussion has occurred.
- Post-traumatic dizziness.
- Second impact syndrome. This is caused by experiencing a second concussion prior to the brain’s recovery from the first concussion and may result in rapid, often fatal, brain swelling.
It is important for anyone who has had a brain injury to be evaluated by a medical doctor. A cranial computed tomography (CT) scanis the test of choice performed in the emergency room.
It is important that the brain be allowed to rest after an injury has occurred. Sports activities should be avoided as well as any vigorous activity. Activities that would require a significant amount of focused attention should be minimized including schoolwork, video games, texting, and TV.