What is a Concussion?
A concussion, also called a mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs as a result of a blow or an injury to the head. Concussions are common in people involved in sports such as football, ice hockey, snow skiing, bicycling, etc. Usually, a concussion may be mild and does not result in long-term damage, but repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
Causes for Concussions
Your brain is protected by cerebrospinal fluid within your skull that acts as a shock absorber against minor trauma to the head. However, the brain can be injured in case of severe trauma such as:
- A strong blow to the head that causes the brain to forcefully impact the inner wall of the skull
- Abrupt acceleration and deacceleration of the head that may be caused by a motor vehicular accident
- Violent shaking of the head and neck
- A blast injury
Symptoms of a Concussion
The symptoms may be immediate or delayed and can include:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Slurred speech
- Sensitivity to light
- Sleep pattern changes
Complications of Concussions
Some of the potential complications of a concussion injury include:
- Post-traumatic headaches that may last for about 7 days
- Post-traumatic vertigo that may continue for weeks and months after the injury
- Post-concussion syndrome which is characterized by headaches, dizziness, and difficulty thinking clearly that lasts longer than 3 months after the injury
- Rapid brain swelling which may occur if a second concussive injury occurs before full recovery from the initial injury
Diagnosis of Concussions
A diagnosis of a concussion may be made by your doctor based on:
- Evaluation of your signs and symptoms
- Review of medical history
- Neurological examination, which includes testing vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength, and sensation
- Cognitive testing, which includes memory and concentration ability testing
- Imagining tests such as a brain MRI or CT scan to look for signs of bleeding or other abnormalities within the brain
- A period of observation at the hospital or home as signs and symptoms may develop after a few hours or days following the injury.
Treatment of Concussions
The treatment may involve the following measures:
- Taking prescribed medications for symptomatic relief.
- Getting plenty of sleep during the night as well as taking a nap during the day.
- Refraining from activities that can stress your mind.
- Refraining from sports or games that may worsen concussion symptoms.
Prevention of Concussions
The risk of sustaining a concussion may be reduced by the following measures:
- Wearing a well-fitting helmet and other protective equipment while participating in sports or recreational activities.
- Buckling your seatbelt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle
- Keeping your home clutter-free and well-lit to prevent falls
- Exercising regularly to improve mobility, strength, and balance