A few years ago, the movie Concussion, brought this frequent sports injury to the forefront of the news. The movie focuses on a real-life doctor who brings awareness to the significant risk that some of our nation’s top athletic stars – football players – undergo each time they walk on to the field, whether during practice or during a game.
Terrifying Head Injury Statistics
The statistics aren't good, especially for children and adolescents. Per Daneshaver, et al, the CDC estimates that 1.6 to 3.87 million concussions occur in sports related activities each year – but if anything that number is low, as many people with mild or moderate symptoms never even seek medical advice and thus are not accounted for in that number. Meanwhile, also according to the CDC, the incidence of concussion has risen over 200 percent among teens in the last decade.
The Science Behind Concussions
Definition: a concussion (also known as a mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI) is a serious medical condition resulting from a loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation for less than 30 minutes (longer than that would qualify as a full TBI).
Symptoms: Although a concussion is referred to as a “mild” TBI, there is nothing mild about the impact that a concussion can have on a person’s day to day functioning, particularly if there are repeated concussions. These issues can be short-lived or long-lasting:
- Cognitive issues – visual disruptions, memory, attention (focus)
- Emotional issues – depression, irritability, mood and personality changes
- Physical issues – headache, dizziness and balance issues, difficulty with sleep, seizures, fatigue (extreme tiredness)
Common Causes: a concussion is caused by a blow to the head, or any type of whiplash, jerking motion that affects the head (this can actually cause the brain to hit the skull within the head). So that means that really, concussions can happen anywhere and at anytime, whether it’s in the car, during combat, or on the playing field. One of the greatest risks are sports-related head injuries, particularly during contact sports like football and ice hockey. That doesn’t mean, of course, that non-contact sports (from soccer to swimming) don’t pose some level of risk. It’s crucial to wear protective head-gear, and to be attentive to symptoms of concussion – there is never a reason to “be the big guy” and play through symptoms of a concussion. Immediate medical attention is necessary if you see any symptoms of confusion, disorientation, or loss of consciousness.
Diagnosis: a concussion is diagnosed by a medical professional such as a doctor. Sometimes symptoms can be seen on an MRI or CAT scan, but not always.
Treatment for Concussion
Long-term, concussion symptoms can be lasting, particularly those affecting cognitive functions such as memory and attention. Those symptoms can be treated by a variety of professionals, ranging from speech-language pathologists to neurologists to educational specialists (depending on the age of the injured person) to occupational therapists.
Programs like Constant Therapy can be helpful to work on those cognitive functions, especially attention and memory.
Bottom-line: Take this injury seriously. Talk to a medical professional right away.