In the past few years, you may have noticed an increase in conversation around the topic of concussions. There has been an increase in concussion recognition and awareness within the youth sports communities and from professional sport leagues, such as the National Football League (NFL), created rules and regulations for the recognition and management of sports-related concussions. However, even with all of the awareness that has been generated, not everyone knows what exactly a concussion is or what health issues can arise from sustaining a concussion(s).
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a “trauma induced alteration in one’s mental state” most likely caused by a traumatic injury to the head or neck. Concussions are known as a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can cause the brain to bounce, twist, or shake inside the skull. Try envisioning a jar filled with water, inside of the jar is a peeled orange, free floating. The jar represents your skull, and the peeled orange represent your brain free floating within. If you shake the jar, the peeled orange will rattle against the hard edges of the jar; causing damage. You can see how overtime the more the peeled orange is rattled within the jar, the more imperfect the orange will become. In regards to the human brain, if this occurs, it will cause chemical changes in the brain and ultimately can result in damage to brain cells. In the middle of your brain is what they call the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS helps regulate your consciousness & sense of awareness, and also allows you to ignore information you don’t need by focusing primarily on the details you do need. When you suffer a concussion, the impact to the head disrupts the electrical activities of the brain cells that make up the RAS causing the symptoms associated with a concussion.
What causes a concussion?
The brain (considered a soft organ) is surrounded by fluid that helps protect & cushion the brain. Without this fluid, the brain would hit the outer edges of the skull, which would cause injury to the brain.
There are multiple ways one may sustain a concussion. You may be able to name a few, some of the most common include:
Falls Any fall that may cause your neck to extend in a backwards position, or hitting your head on a stable object can cause a concussion (and potentially other injuries).
Car crashes If you have ever been in a car accident, you know that you cannot always see the accident coming. You don’t have the time to brace yourself. Accidents can cause a whiplash mechanism of injury or even cause your head to hit something within the vehicle (window, steering wheel, side panel, etc.). When your head hits against any object in the vehicle, your likelihood of concussion may increase.
Fights When a fight breaks out, the most common thing you see is someone aiming for the head or face of the opposing individual (who is probably doing what they can to protect their face). The abrupt blows to the head and, on the off-chance that your head hits the ground or another stable object, may cause a concussion.
- Sports activities Think of sports like football, hockey, soccer, or boxing where contact level is high. When playing any of these sports, you can anticipate that you are going to make contact with another individual multiple times throughout the game. Sometimes, however, the area of contact may be the neck or head which may result in a concussion.
The dangers of a concussion
You may be asking yourself, why has there been so much concern over concussions recently? Well, there are many dangers to concussions. These include but are not limited to:
Post-trauma vertigo – In some instances, people experience symptoms of vertigo like dizziness and spinning for an extended period of time post injury.
Post-trauma headaches – In some instances, people experience headaches after the concussion. These can start as early as a day after, to even months later.
Post-concussion syndrome – Similar to post-trauma vertigo and headaches, post-concussion syndrome can cause symptoms like headaches, dizziness and even difficulties with thinking for an extended period of time post injury.
Second impact syndrome – The signs & symptoms of a concussion don’t always resolve quickly after a concussion. In second impact syndrome, a second concussion occurs before the signs & symptoms of the first have resolved. This can (not always) lead to fatal brain swelling.
Concussions are not something to take lightly. If you think you or someone you know may have suffered a concussion, get medical attention immediately. A medical professional can tell you things to look for, tell you activities to monitor, etc. We now have an Athletic Trainer on the Envision team that can help you rehabilitate after a concussion or educate you on proper protection & warning signs of concussion. We encourage you to use us as a resource!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "What is a Concussion," https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html
MayoClinic, "Concussion," https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/symptoms-causes/syc-20355594