Everything You Need to Know About Concussions

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that can occur when an individual suffers a blow or jolt to the head. The symptoms vary depending on the severity, and some may be mild while others more serious. In any case, it’s important to know what signs you should look out for if your child is experiencing concussion-related issues.

Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that can occur when the head is suddenly and violently moved. They are usually caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. There is no one cause for concussions, but they can be caused by falls, car accidents, sports injuries, or any other sudden trauma to the head. Read more in detail here: 5 facts about concussions.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Charles Patterson, a Marine Corps veteran and paramedic. 

If you watch enough football (or follow sports in general), you’ve almost certainly heard of athletes who have had a concussion or several concussions, forcing them to leave a game, miss a season, or even retire completely. Athletics may be the most well-known source of concussions, but they also affect the entire population, particularly youngsters and the elderly.

A concussion is one of many forms of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and is sometimes referred to as a mild TBI (mTBI). It’s also the most prevalent kind of traumatic brain injury. A concussion’s effects might be slight, resolving in minutes to days, or more significant, causing a disturbance in daily life and lasting many weeks or more.

While a concussion is referred to as a mild TBI, this kind of damage is far from mild. It is only moderate in comparison to more severe types of TBI. Even a single first-time concussion with relatively minor symptoms should be treated with caution.

As a result, I’ll guide you through how concussions occur, what they “look” like, and how they should be handled today, so you’ll be better equipped to care for yourself and others in the event of a brain injury.  

What Is a Concussion, Exactly?

To comprehend the nature of concussions, you must first comprehend some basic brain architecture.

The brain is enclosed in the skull, which is not a flawlessly smooth structure, as some may be astonished to hear. Instead, troughs, ridges, and pockets of bone are engraved into the interior surface. These grooves and interior structures support the brain, blood arteries, and a variety of other systems that ensure that everything north of our necks functions properly.

The brain is a squishy structure with a consistency that many people who have touched it directly compare to Jell-O. (Watch this video to see what a brain looks like just after it’s been autopsied; be warned: it’s not for the faint of heart!) As a result, the brain and spinal cord are very sensitive to harm, and the body protects them with a triple layer of membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF, among other things, offers buoyancy to the brain and works as a shock absorber under normal circumstances.

A concussion disrupts this healthy equilibrium, bypassing the brain’s natural defenses and converting the textured topography of the skull into a weapon of damage.

A concussion may happen as a consequence of a force injury or a contact injury (or in some unlucky cases, both). A punch to the face would be considered a contact injury. Whiplash or blast damage, on the other hand, occurs when the head is forcefully shaken without coming into contact with an external item or surface. When a strong enough contact injury or acceleration force occurs, brain tissue comes into direct touch with the inside of the skull, causing blood vessel and neuron damage. Aside from physical touch, the brain is stretched and squeezed as it travels about, causing further injury and disturbance.

 

The brain is frequently affected in the same location of the head that was hit after a traumatic impact; for example, if the left side of the head is impacted, the left side of the brain is harmed. However, the harm is not confined in this manner. The brain impacts one side of the skull, but instead of returning to its original position, it keeps moving and strikes the opposite side of the skull, causing more damage to another section of the brain, much like when you shake a mold of Jell-O and it moves one way and then the other.

The brain is divided into lobes, cortices, and other areas, each with its own set of functions. Physical brain injury might have temporary or permanent consequences depending on which of these components is impacted. Damage to a portion of the frontal lobe, for example, might cause mood swings and personality changes. Damage to the occipital lobe, or back of the brain, may cause visual loss, which can be temporary or permanent. The degree of a concussion determines whether the damage to the brain is transient or permanent.

Risk Factors and Groups

Although exact figures for concussions are difficult to come by (owing in part to underreporting), the CDC estimates that 2.5 million TBI-related emergency department visits occurred in 2014. (this includes injuries more severe than concussions and patients with multiple injuries, including brain injuries).

Vehicle crashes, sports, and particularly falls are the most prevalent causes of concussions (which alone account for 47.9 percent of TBIs). The risk factors for mTBIs are mostly connected to age, while other variables play a role as well:

Children aged 0 to 4 years

Our children stroll about like Bambi fresh out of the womb for the first several years. That, and they don’t always pay attention to where they’re going, even as they become older. Small children’s heads are larger in proportion to their bodies than adults’, and their neck muscles are still growing. Their heads eventually reach counter height, table height, and every-other-hard-surface-with-a-sharp-corner height as they develop. Little kids bump their heads a lot, thanks to tripping over their own feet, being top heavy, and dashing right into anything just above eye level. Some of these injuries are minor, such as kiss where it hurts and go play, while others may be rather serious.  

15-24 years of adolescence/early adulthood

This age group’s highest risk factor is… hazardous conduct. Team sports, extreme activities, driving too quickly, flaunting, and making bad decisions in general raise the chance of breaking your dome.

60+ Years of Age

The bulk of the head injuries I treat are from elderly individuals who have fallen. A multitude of physiologic and pathologic changes occur as we age, increasing our risk of falling. Musculoskeletal injuries and pathologies that cause muscle weakness and unstable joints; diabetic neuropathy, which commonly affects the feet and legs; generally poor gait and balance due to a variety of factors; orthostatic hypotension (sudden drop in blood pressure when moving from sitting to standing); stroke-induced neurologic deficits that can cause weakness; and many more. Grandpa may also refuse to use his walker because he is obstinate and resentful of his loss of freedom. When all of these elements are combined with a reduced response time, even the most fundamental actions become dangerous for this age group, such as trying the trip from bed to toilet. Unfortunately, older patients are unable to stop their fall adequately and hence take the bulk of the impact force to their heads.

 

Males of All Ages

Yes, just being a man puts us at a higher chance of suffering a brain injury (any injury, really). We put ourselves at risk of damage all the time, whether it’s via unsafe recreational pursuits, perilous occupations, or our insatiable need to brag and one-up one other. It’s simply a part of who we are.

Men make approximately 85 percent of the military and 97.5 percent of those in combat situations, putting them at a higher risk of concussion. Blast concussions are most prevalent among military personnel and are caused by the explosion’s over-pressurization, however direct impact from debris may also induce a TBI.

Concussions or Head Injuries in the Past

Multiple past concussions have different effects on the brain than a single isolated concussion. Multiple concussions over time may have a stronger impact on mood and induce more abrupt mood changes, as well as delayed neurologic recovery. The symptoms might linger for a long time and take a long time to recover from. Repeated head trauma may eventually develop to a disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Depression, poor cognition, suicidal thoughts, emotional instability, and other symptoms are all indicators of CTE. The brain atrophies physically, and the illness is comparable to other brain diseases including dementia and Alzheimer’s. CTE is a challenging disorder to diagnose; although it may be suspected in a live patient based on symptoms, the only way to know for sure is to do a post-mortem autopsy.

Concussion Symptoms and Signs

So, how does a concussion “appear”? How can you tell whether you or someone you know has had a concussion?

The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a concussion or a brain injury:

  • “Knocked out” is a term used to describe a momentary loss of consciousness.
  • disruptions in vision (seeing spots, blurred vision, etc.)
  • noise and/or light sensitivity
  • nausea accompanied by or without vomiting
  • learners of various sizes
  • confusion
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling weary or exhausted
  • loss of recollection of the incident
  • mood swings, irritation

A laceration (or cut) at the impact site, as well as bruising and swelling, are some of the physical indicators to anticipate. However, in the instance of whiplash or a blast from an explosion, a person may seem unaffected on the outside while suffering brain problems that are not visible.

Other concussion symptoms appear after the first occurrence and may continue anywhere from a few days to many months, depending on severity. Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include:

  • difficulties concentrating
  • alterations in conduct (irritability, impulsivity, irrational behavior, low motivation)
  • mood swings and emotional shifts
  • new onset speech problems (a new stutter, for example)
  • Loss of memory (this may be memory of the event, or other memory impairments such as forgetting why you walked into a room, losing your train of thought easily or frequently, etc.)

Skull fractures, brain swelling, bleeding in the brain, and strokes are just a few of the more severe diseases that may develop from a head injury. All of this may lead to further issues, some of which can be deadly. Because the skull is contained, swelling or bleeding within the brain is very harmful, as there is nowhere for the swelling or blood to escape, putting pressure on the brain. The symptoms develop when the swelling or bleeding worsens, and the patient’s health deteriorates.

 

Other indications or symptoms to look out for that might indicate a more severe disease are:

  • a clearly visible open skull fracture
  • region of the skull that is depressed
  • changed state of mind
  • a loss of awareness followed by a resumption of consciousness
  • The first loss of awareness is followed by a second loss of consciousness.
  • vomiting in a projectile
  • seeming drowsy or sluggish and difficult to wake up
  • breathing that is uneven, irregular, or sluggish
  • a weakening in one of the body’s extremities or on one side (as you might expect in a stroke)
  • Mood swings, illogical behavior, and violent/aggressive conduct are all symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • amnesia
  • one or both ears are bleeding

When Should You Seek Medical Help If You Think You’ve Had a Concussion?

I said before in this piece that accurate statistics of concussions sustained throughout the country are difficult to come by owing to underreporting. Some individuals who have just minor concussion symptoms refuse to seek medical help, preferring to shake it off and “wait and see.” “It’ll be nice if the symptoms improve. Otherwise, I’ll see my doctor later.”

This is quite reasonable. We’ve all been in that situation. Who wants to stay in an ER for a minor injury with nothing more than a goose egg and a headache to show for it, just to have the doctor walk in and say, “Let’s keep an eye on you for a few hours,” without even an IV or a CT scan to show for it? Nobody, to be precise. In these situations of minimal injuries, use your common sense. However, if anything doesn’t look right or you feel uneasy in any way, leave immediately.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact 911 (don’t drive yourself) or go to the nearest hospital ER as soon as possible:

  • any lapse in awareness
  • changed mental state (not attentive or aware, unable to respond to basic questions he/she should be able to answer)
  • a headache that won’t go away or is becoming worse
  • just not behaving properly
  • any of the severe TBI symptoms listed above

Small children may exacerbate the condition and make it more difficult to analyze than an older kid or adult. If you have any doubts, contact 911 or go to the emergency room right away. All of the indications and symptoms stated in this article should be looked for in a kid or newborn, as well as if the youngster is difficult to soothe and/or refuses to eat or breastfeed.

It’s critical to teach older children about the danger of concussions and how to spot them if they engage in activities or sports that have a greater risk of brain damage. Encourage them to think about their health rather than just a few minutes of gaming time.

A call to 911 is usually necessary in the case of a head injury in an older individual. Our brain begins to shrink as we age, with the rate of shrinking rising beyond the age of 60. A head injury at this age or later has a higher risk of causing more serious damage to the brain and blood vessels around it. Patients with a range of medical illnesses who use blood thinners have a significantly increased chance of a bleed within the brain. A head injury in an older patient on blood thinners is a severe worry that will need an enhanced trauma level in the emergency room (a higher trauma level being more serious).

 

Taking Care of a Concussion

Treatment is required right away.

A head injury’s first treatment options are limited. The safety of you and/or the wounded person should come first. You may need to get out of harm’s path before doing anything else, depending on what caused the head injury.

Maintain a straight and steady neck. While most people associate concussions with the brain, the injury might have also caused damage to the spine in the neck. Damage to the cervical spine (also known as the c-spine) that runs from the base of your head to the top of your back is especially dangerous. The phrenic nerve, which regulates the diaphragm, the fundamental muscle of breathing, starts in the neck between the 3rd and 5th cervical vertebrae, among the numerous nerves that descend down the spinal cord. The effects of a c-spine damage on this nerve might vary from trouble breathing to complete diaphragmatic paralysis.

As a result, keeping a head injury victim’s neck immobilized while waiting for EMS is critical. This is particularly true if there is neck pain; but, the lack of neck discomfort does not rule out the possibility of a neck injury; always presume there is one. If you’re alone and hurt, try not to move your neck or head any more than is absolutely required. Encourage someone who is hurt to stay motionless and keep their head straight if you’re with them. You may use your hands to physically retain the patient’s head and neck in a straight line while positioned at their head, utilizing your palms and fingers to offer support and prevent forward and lateral movement. Based on what you or the patient can tell them about the event, EMS will determine whether or not to continue administering “c-spine precautions” or “c-spine immobilization.” If they want to continue with c-spine precautions, a tight collar (cervical or c-collar) will be placed around the patient’s neck to assist maintain the neck straight.

If a laceration is evident, stop the bleeding. If there is a laceration, apply enough pressure to halt the bleeding. If a very tiny wound seems to bleed profusely, don’t be startled. Because the head and face have many superficial blood arteries, injury to these places is more likely to bleed than a cut on your arm of comparable size. Keeping the bandage in place may be as simple as wrapping a gauze roll around the head (keeping the whole spine in line and reducing head/neck movement). (Surely you maintain a well-stocked first aid kit on available and know how to utilize everything in it, right?) But don’t put off getting care because you want to perform your own bandaging, and don’t do anything you haven’t prepared for or aren’t comfortable with. Ice should be used to treat edema and goose eggs. Avoid applying pressure to a depressed portion of the skull, and use great care if you need to stop bleeding in this area.

 

If necessary/advisable, start CPR. Some head traumas are severe enough to render the patient unconscious and cause their respiration rate to slow. Feel for a pulse if the patient doesn’t seem to be breathing. Start CPR if they don’t have a pulse and you have the necessary skills. You may also be directed to administer CPR by an emergency dispatcher.

There’s not much a layman can do if they have a pulse but aren’t breathing or are breathing insufficiently. For various reasons, including the danger of disease transmission and the potential of unskilled or untrained people unintentionally blowing air into the stomach instead of the lungs, causing vomiting and subsequent aspiration of the vomitus, mouth to mouth is no longer recommended.

The doctor may order a CT scan (also known as a CAT scan) to check the brain and/or spinal cord and search for indications of damage, swelling, bruising, or bleeding in the brain, depending on the severity of the injury, the symptoms present, and the patient’s prior medical history. A CT scan with negative results (nothing discovered) does not rule out other, more serious illnesses, but it does rule out concussion. The physical exam and event history are used to make a concussion diagnosis.

Treatment Following an Accident 

There are a few things you can do to help with healing after you’ve been released and diagnosed with a concussion:

Rest. Just like muscles need time to recuperate after a workout or an accident, your brain needs time to recover as well. This encompasses both mental and physical rest in order to reduce stress. While you’re healing, limit your workout and avoid doing anything that might cause your head to be jostled. If feasible, take a few days off from work or school. While symptoms continue, avoid activities (particularly contact sports). And, contrary to common opinion, sleeping after a concussion is OK as long as the individual is awake and behaving normally before going to bed.

Diet. Maintaining a nutritious diet is vital at any time, but it is particularly critical after an injury. A healthy diet contains various vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that aid in recuperation.

Sounds and lights. Bright lighting and loud noises should be avoided. You may already be light and sound sensitive, so this will be a no-brainer for you. Even if you don’t have this sensitivity, limiting your exposure will help your brain heal. Limiting your screen time can help you avoid eye strain from gazing at your phone, tablet, computer, or television.

Orders from the doctor. Above and beyond these guidelines, listen to your doctor’s advise and inquire about how your concussion is related to your unique condition, requirements, and medical history.

Conclusion

Concussions and other brain injuries may have a variety of causes and symptoms, but they should always be addressed seriously. There is no such thing as a “mild” brain injury, and any blow to the head should be treated with extreme care. You will be more prepared if this tragic event comes if you understand your risks, recognize the signs, and know what to do. Keep your calm, be confident, and be macho.

 

Concussions and other brain injuries may have a variety of causes and symptoms, but they should always be addressed seriously. There is no such thing as a “mild” brain injury, and any blow to the head should be treated with extreme care. You will be more prepared if this tragic event comes if you understand your risks, recognize the signs, and know what to do. Keep your calm, be confident, and be macho.

Charles Patterson is the father of five gorgeous children and the spouse of a lovely woman. Charles discovered his real calling as a paramedic after serving in the Marine Corps as a linguist and receiving a degree in Music Production following his release. He likes cycling, mountain biking, shooting firearms, frisbee golf with his family, and playing guitar when the job and duties are done.

 

 

Concussions are a serious injury that can occur in sports and other physical activities. They happen when the brain is shaken or jostled, causing the brain to hit against the inside of the skull. The impact causes bruising and swelling, which can lead to bleeding inside the skull and damage to nerve cells., Reference: what causes a concussion.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you need to know about concussions?

A: Concussions are a traumatic brain injury caused by the abrupt acceleration-deceleration of the head. They can be mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms may include headache and nausea as well as confusion or feeling dizzy or lightheaded. There is no known cause for concussions, but its been found that they frequently occur in sports such as football and wrestling, where players are tackled from one side to another during contact sport play.

What are the 6 types of concussions?

A: The types of concussions are mild, moderate, severe and complicated. Mild concussion can be treated with rest while the other ones need surgery or hospitalization.

What are the 4 categories of concussion symptoms?

A: The 4 categories of concussion symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea and sensitivity to light.

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