A concussion is a form of brain injury that can result in altered mental states and, in some cases, unconsciousness. Let’s explore this injury together to better understand the warning signs associated with this potentially dangerous condition.
Concussion, a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), impacts brain function. While the effects are typically temporary, individuals may experience symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and challenges with balance and coordination.
What exactly is a concussion?
A concussion occurs as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), often following a blow to the head or a traumatic head injury affecting both the head and brain. This injury leads to changes in mental states, which can range from altered consciousness to unconsciousness.
Injuries can occur during everyday activities like falls or car accidents. Participation in high-impact sports like soccer or boxing increases the risk of a concussion. While concussions are generally not life-threatening, they can lead to severe symptoms requiring medical attention.
A concussion differs from a bruise, as it directly impacts the brain, while bruises affect only the skin. Although head injuries can result in infections, they often resolve on their own within a few days.
Causes of a concussion
The brain, a soft tissue, is cushioned by spinal fluid within the protective skull. Forceful impacts to the head can lead to brain trauma, causing bruising, damage to blood vessels, and nerve impairment. Consequently, the brain may function abnormally, resulting in disrupted vision, loss of balance, or even loss of consciousness. In essence, a concussion can leave the brain in a dizzying state.
Some factors that increase the risk of experiencing a concussion include:
- Falls, especially among children and the elderly
- Engaging in combat sports
- Insufficient safety measures or monitoring equipment in contact sports
- Involvement in car, motorcycle, bicycle accidents, resulting in a significant impact to the head
- Previous history of concussion.
Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Concussions typically exhibit minimal symptoms initially, making them challenging to identify. As the impact occurs internally within the brain, external signs may appear as bruises or scratches. Often, concussion symptoms may only become apparent days to weeks after the incident. Additionally, many of these symptoms are transient, making them easy to overlook. Recognizing the signs is crucial to promptly address the injury, given its potential dangers.
This condition presents various physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Common signs of a concussion in adults include:
Experiencing dizziness and forgetfulness, nausea or vomiting, headaches and stuttering, balance problems, sensitivity to light and noise, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and sleepiness, as well as issues like tinnitus and problems with taste are indicative symptoms of traumatic brain injury in adults.
Indications of Traumatic Brain Injury in Children
Traumatic brain injuries in children pose unique challenges due to their larger and disproportionate heads in comparison to their small bodies. This anatomical difference increases the likelihood of concussions in young children during collisions. As children enter adolescence, their rapid growth in height and weight also makes them more susceptible to falls than adults. In the event of a child sustaining a concussion, it is crucial for adults to closely monitor them during the initial 24 hours. Administering any medication, including aspirin, which can lead to blood clotting, should not be done without consulting a doctor.
Monitoring changes in a child’s behavior after a collision is essential, especially since young children may struggle to articulate their feelings effectively. Concussion symptoms in children encompass headaches, dizziness, balance issues, stomach upset or vomiting, fatigue, sensitivity to light or noise, slow thinking or delayed responses, memory and concentration problems, heightened irritability, sadness, anxiety, or emotional responses, as well as sleep disturbances.
Classification of Concussions
Medical professionals assess the extent and seriousness of concussions by considering factors such as loss of consciousness, memory loss, and balance impairment. There are three widely employed levels in the concussion rating scale:
- Grade 1: Mild concussion characterized by symptoms lasting under 15 minutes and no loss of consciousness;
- Grade 2: Moderate concussion involving symptoms lasting more than 15 minutes, without accompanying loss of consciousness;
- Level 3: Severe concussion, marked by a loss of consciousness, occasionally lasting only a few seconds.
Complications Arising from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Potential complications associated with a concussion include:
- Post-traumatic headaches: Some individuals may encounter headaches related to the concussion, manifesting as early as seven days after the injury.
- Post-Traumatic Dizziness: Certain individuals may experience feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness for days, weeks, or even months following a brain injury.
- Post-concussion syndrome: A small percentage of individuals (15% to 20%) may continue to exhibit symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and cognitive difficulties beyond three weeks. If these symptoms persist for over three months, the condition is diagnosed as post-concussion syndrome.
- Multiple Traumatic Brain Injuries: Ongoing research is actively exploring the consequences of repetitive head trauma without apparent symptoms (subtraumatic injury). Currently, there is no conclusive evidence establishing a link between repeated brain trauma and its effects.
- Impact Syndrome: While rare, this condition can occur when a second concussion transpires before the signs and symptoms of the initial concussion have subsided, leading to swift and often fatal brain swelling.
- Athletes may be unable to return to sports if they continue to exhibit signs and symptoms of a concussion.
Methods for Concussion Diagnosis
While most individuals recover fully from a concussion with appropriate treatment, it is crucial to prioritize safety due to the potential seriousness of these injuries. The following steps can be taken:
- Seek Medical Attention: Consult with your doctor to determine the severity of your concussion and the need for treatment. If diagnosed with a 1st or 2nd degree concussion, it is advisable to wait until symptoms completely subside before resuming normal activities. This recovery period can vary from minutes to hours, days, or even a week.
- Third Degree Concussion (Unconsciousness): If a person is unconscious, indicative of a 3rd degree concussion, immediate medical evaluation and care are essential. The medical professional will inquire about the circumstances of the head injury and discuss associated symptoms. Simple questions like “Where do you live?” and “What is your name?” may be posed to assess memory and concentration skills.
- Coordination and Reflex Testing: The doctor may conduct tests to evaluate coordination and reflexes, which are indicative of central nervous system functions.
- Imaging Studies: In some cases, your doctor may order a CT scan or an MRI to rule out the presence of bleeding or other severe brain injuries.
How to Treat Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Facilitate Home Recovery
If hospitalization is not required, your doctor will provide instructions for implementing home remedies to support recovery. Typically, doctors advise closely monitoring your condition for 24 to 72 hours, especially if symptoms worsen. To recover at home, consider the following steps:
- Take a Break: In the event of a concussion, especially during sports activities, cease participation immediately and take a break. Allow your brain the necessary time to recover by resting. It is crucial not to resume activities on the same day. Athletes and children should be under the close supervision of a coach during play to minimize the risk of a second concussion, which could result in more severe damage.
- Prevent Repeated Concussions: Multiple concussions can have cumulative effects on the brain, leading to serious consequences such as brain swelling, permanent damage, long-term disability, or even death. Therefore, refrain from returning to normal activities if concussion symptoms persist. Schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor to ensure clearance for a confident return to work or play.
- Manage Pain with Non-Aspirin Medications: Your doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medications or recommend over-the-counter options to alleviate pain and discomfort.
How to Prevent Concussions
While concussions often occur unexpectedly, there are practical precautions to reduce the likelihood of experiencing one:
- Wear Protective Equipment: Engaging in high-risk, high-impact sports like football, hockey, or boxing, as well as activities such as skateboarding, snowboarding, and rollerblading, can elevate the risk of concussion. Wearing headgear, pads, mouthguards, and eye protectors can provide essential protection against head injuries. Additionally, wearing a helmet while riding a motorized vehicle can decrease the risk of head injury by 85%. Ensure that all equipment fits properly and is well-maintained before participating in sports and training.
- Drive and Ride Safely: Always wear your seat belt, adhere to prescribed speed limits, and avoid the use of drugs or alcohol, as these substances can impair your reaction time in the event of a crash.
- Minimize Fall Risks at Home: Reduce the risk of falls within your home by clearing clutter from floors, hallways, and stairs. Ensure proper lighting throughout the house to enhance visibility and prevent accidents.
- Engage in Regular Exercise: Regular exercise contributes to stronger leg muscles and improved balance, reducing the risk of falls. Seek guidance from coaches to ensure proper exercise techniques, correct posture, and to minimize the potential for injuries.
- Implement Home Safety Measures for Children: Install window screens and utilize safety gates to block stairs, particularly if there are children in the house. These measures enhance safety and protect children from potential hazards.
Read more: Foreign Body in the Airway
What to Eat for Concussion Recovery
Blueberries, particularly Alaskan blueberries, are rich in antioxidants and stand out as one of the best foods to aid in brain healing post-concussion. With high levels of flavonoids, they rank among the fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant content. This quality makes them effective in reducing inflammation and supporting the recovery process after a concussion. Additionally, blueberries may enhance communication between brain cells, contributing to the maintenance of overall brain function.
Green tea is a valuable source of antioxidants for concussion recovery. Consuming a cup or two daily during the recovery period can enhance alertness, memory, and cognition. Green tea shields the brain from the detrimental effects of free radicals and helps alleviate inflammation. Moreover, it contains the amino acid L-theanine, known for reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation without inducing fatigue. Given the importance of minimizing stress and maintaining a relaxed state during concussion recovery, green tea is a beneficial addition to your post-concussion diet.
Pecans (and Other Nuts)
Pecans, recognized for their healthy fat content, are an excellent choice for enhancing brain function. Along with other nuts like walnuts, pecans offer a combination of antioxidants and healthy fats that support overall brain health. Including pecans in your post-concussion diet can be a favorable option for promoting recovery.
Foods to Avoid for Concussion Recovery
In order to facilitate the healing process of your brain after a concussion, it is advisable to steer clear of foods high in saturated fat and processed sugar, as these can impede recovery and potentially contribute to nerve damage.
Some examples of foods high in saturated fat and sugar to avoid include:
- Dairy products (butter, cream, milk, cheese…)
- Fatty meats such as steak or lamb chops
- Processed meats (cold cuts or sausages)
- Sugary drinks
Additionally, it is recommended to refrain from consuming any alcohol while undergoing recovery from a concussion.
Johnny Jacks was born in 1985 in Texas, USA. He is the founder of Good Health Plan and is passionate about helping people improve their health and physical well-being. With over a decade of experience working in the healthcare industry, he currently works at Goodheathplan.com – a blog that shares knowledge on beauty and health.