If you are involved in sports activities, have ever taken a fall, or have experienced an automobile accident, chances are you may have experienced a concussion. You may have seen stars or complained of a major headache without losing consciousness. Sometimes a person can have a concussion without even realizing it.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a traumatic injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head or trauma that involves the upper body and head being forcibly shaken, changing the way the brain functions. Even though most concussions are temporary, the effects can cause problems with memory, balance, coordination, and concentration. While common to people who play contact sports, a concussion needs time to heal. Most people recover fully with proper medical care and rest.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may not be easily visible at first, because the injury is internal. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe and can last from several hours to months. Watch carefully for the following:
- Physical: headaches, pressure in the head, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, sensitivity to light or noise, fatigue, and lack of coordination
- Emotional: depression, irritability, anger, sadness, nervousness, anxiety
- Cognitive: interruptions in concentration, amnesia, loss of consciousness
- Maintenance: change in eating patterns, sleep disturbances, insomnia
Concussion symptoms in young children are the same as in adults with the following additions: dilated pupils; large head bumps or bruises; excessive crying; personality changes; differences in the way they nurse, sleep, or eat; difficulty recognizing people; temper tantrums; loss of interest in playing; and regression of toilet training skills.
What causes a concussion?
When the head or body experiences a hard blow, the brain can slam against the inner walls of the skull. The brain is made of tissue the consistency of gelatin and enclosed by cerebrospinal fluid that protects the hard skull by serving as a shock absorber. With too much force, brain injuries can result. Bleeding in or around the brain can be fatal.
Concussions can be caused by the following risk factors:
- Involvement in contact sports activities such as boxing, football, soccer, hockey, skiing or snowboarding
- Playground injuries
- Being in close proximity to combat zones
- Automobile, bicycle or pedestrian accidents
What research is being done on the causes of concussions?
Researchers have studied the various causes of concussions and have found the following:
- An athlete with a history of sports-related concussions is susceptible to multiple concussions.
- Females are more likely to show symptoms than males and require a longer recovery time.
- People with a history of psychiatric disorders, a history of migraines, and developmental disorders are more likely to sustain concussions.
- Male football players and female soccer players receive the most concussions, which occur more during games, not practices.
- The impact speed causing an athlete’s brain injury can be from 20mph to 70mph.
Continuous research is being done in hopes of understanding the impact of concussions on the brain, long-term effects of repeated concussions, and their diagnosis and treatment.