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Concussion

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This 3D MRI of a human brain reveals injury (in red) following mild head trauma. Image courtesy of Lawrence Latour, Ph.D., National Institutes of Health and the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine.

A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury that may occur when the head hits an object. Normally the brain is surrounded by spinal fluid to keep it from hitting the skull when people move around. When the head or upper body is shaken suddenly the fluid cannot protect the brain and it hits the skull, causing a concussion. A concussion can cause mild or serious problems. After having one, a person may not be able to focus, do much physical activity, or even just remember things. These are also signs that someone has possibly has had a concussion: headaches, dizziness, and even vomiting. After a concussion, symptoms and effects might last hours, days, or months, depending on the severity of the injury. To help symptoms subside or to help someone get through them, they can write things down to remember them or make sure they are focusing on one thing if they cannot concentrate.

What it is

This shows what a concussion does to the brain.

A concussion is also called a mild traumatic brain injury. A concussion is caused when the head or upper body is shaken which causes the brain to shake inside the skull. The injury will not be visible because it happens to the brain, though there might be symptoms or signs that are apparent which will be talked about later on. The reason a concussion can also be called a mild traumatic brain injury is because a concussion is not life threatening, but it can cause serious damage to the brain.[1]

There are multiple ways to get a concussion. A concussion can vary, being a slight or serious problem. A person might get a concussion from multiple causes such as being hit, a blow to the head, involved in a fight, falling down, playing around, a bike accident, a car crash, or being involved in any kind of sport.[2] Ultimately, anything that causes the brain to move inside of the skull and disrupt it's function is a concussion. [3] The reason a person might get a concussion is that the head is just hit hard and suddenly. The brain is inside of the skull. To keep our brain from hitting our skull on a daily bases, there is spinal fluid. In normal instances, that fluid keeps the brain from hitting the skull when someone is walking, running, upside down, or anything of the sort. However, if someone's head, or even the body, is hit hard, the fluid cannot protect it very well and a human's delicate brain hits the hard skull or it might just move quite a bit inside.[2] This leads to the brain being bruised, blood vessels being torn, and nerves being injured.[4]

Signs/Symptoms

After a concussion, a person may or may not lose consciousness. However, if a person does pass out and when waking up does not remember what has just happened, it is obvious what has occurred. Symptoms of a concussion are very hard to detect sometimes because it can range from very mild to severe and might last a few hours, days, weeks, or even possibly months.[2] Signs that a concussion has occurred can be detected by looking at one's thinking, physical state, mood, and sleep after one has hit their head or something of the sort that might cause a concussion. Some signs that might suggest one has had a concussion can include someone who cannot think as clearly as before. They might feel held back, like they cannot remember new information as well, and cannot really concentrate. Relating to their physical condition, they might feel nauseous, dizzy, and cannot balance well. They might have headaches and blurred vision as well as being sensitive to light or noises and might not have any energy. After a concussion, one might be more easily angered, more sad or anxious, and just more emotional in general. In terms of sleeping, they might not be able to fall asleep as easily and might get more or less sleep than they do on a usual basis.[5] Neck pain and ringing of the ears are also signs that one might have a concussion.[1]


Right after a possible concussion has occurred, there are signs that if seen, someone should call for help or even 911. Some symptoms are more serious than others, however, none of them should be taken lightly. One should seek out immediate help if they see someone with a serious headache that either does not go away or is getting worse after a possible concussion. They might be very weak or even be numb, their coordination might be worse, they might start vomiting, have slurred speech, they might get very drowsy or sleepy, they might go unconscious or after they do, someone might not be able to wake them up. More symptoms are seizures, not recognizing people or places, if one of their pupils is larger than the other, and they might have increased confusion and agitation.[6]


Prevention

In football, rules have been placed to wear helmets to protect one's head and help prevent concussions.

While playing in sports, there are ways to protect your head so that concussions are less able to happen. Some sports that require helmets and other gear for protection include baseball, football, and hockey. Sports are not the only place wear helmets are required, other activities do to. Such activities like skateboarding, snowboarding, riding a horse, riding a scooter, or biking all require helmets. While driving or riding in a motor vehicle like motorcycles, ATVs, or four-wheelers one needs to wear a helmet. Helmets are not the only thing that can help prevent a concussion. Wearing a seatbelt whenever one is in a car will help one not hit their head if they get in an accident. It is really important that no one drives a car while they are drunk or under the influence of drugs. This causes one to be reckless and may not even remember to put on a seatbelt. Those two things combined can lead to death, not just a concussion. This is the case because without a seatbelt, if someone gets in a serious accident they can hit their head leading to a very serious concussion or possibly death.[7]


After getting a concussion, that person cannot return to their sport or desired activity for a long period of time, if the injury was severe. After a concussion, the brain is vulnerable and serious activity could damage it even more. They should see their doctor about when they can return to their activity. To also help prevent concussions, they should teach their kids about how safety is very important.[7] This will help the next generation understand the seriousness of a concussion. Teaching them will instill in them the knowledge of how bad things can get if a person does not protect themselves. Kids do not think about wearing helmets as much as they should. They need to understand why people need to wear them and the problems that can come into their every day life if they do not.

Treatment/Therapy

To know if someone has a serious concussion or if that concussion has caused serious problems to the brain, they might need to get a neurological test, CT scan, or MRI scan done.[3] After a concussion, rest is very important. With rest, mild injuries can heal within a few hours. Sometimes with other circumstances, it could possibly take a couple weeks or longer. After a concussion, the brain is very sensitive.[2] Rest is needed to heal the brain. More energy is required to heal what is injured. Even after symptoms have gone away, the brain might still be healing.[3] That is why one should not be involved in any activity which could possibly lead to another concussion. If multiple concussions occur, or one very bad concussion happens, long term effects may develop with movement, learning, or even speaking. These possibly serious effects is the reason why one should involve a doctor after getting a concussion.[2] After awhile, if someone does not seem to be getting better, or they might actually be getting worse, they need to contact their doctor.[6]


When returning to daily life, they need to slowly and gradually return to their activities.[1] While getting back to their activity and their symptoms start to return, they need to stop and rest for the rest of that day. If that occurs, that persons body might be trying to say that it is being pushed too hard and needs a break. Getting good sleep at night and taking it easy during the day helps that person to recover after a concussion. Alcohol or illegal drugs should not be taken unless their doctor recommends it. A pain killer like ibuprofen or Tylenol that does not need a prescription can be taken. Physical or mental activities should be avoided. A student in school that has suffered a concussion should have to change their schedule to have time to recover. To help in the recovery process, if someone experiences swelling, a ice/cold pack should be applied for ten to twenty minutes.[6] If it is hard for a person to start returning to daily life, there are some tricks to help. If it is hard to remember things, they should write it down. Also, if they find themselves easily distracted, they should focus on one thing at a time and not have anything else distract them while they are trying to complete a task.[1]

Video

A detailed description of what a concussion is.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Facts About Concussion and Brain Injury BrainLine. Web. 12 January 2015 (Accessed).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Brain & Nervous System Health Center webMD. Web. 12 January 2015 (Accessed).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 What Should You Do If You Think You Have Had a Concussion? BrainLine. Web. 12 January 2015 (Accessed).
  4. Haas, Rochelle. Concussions Teens Health. Web. January 2011 (Published).
  5. Brain & Nervous System Health Center webMD. Web. 28 January 2015 (Accessed).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Brain & Nervous System Health Center webMD. Web. 28 January 2015 (Accessed).
  7. 7.0 7.1 Brain & Nervous System Health Center webMD. Web. 12 March 2014 (Updated).