A very common form of brain injury that occurs from a sudden impact to the head, concussions are usually not serious and temporary in nature. However, if ignored and not treated, or if multiple concussions occur over a certain period of time, brain functions can be severely impacted and various neurological conditions can result.
A tissue known as meninges as well as cerebrospinal fluid and the skull all act as protectors of the brain. But when the head or upper body receives a strong blow from an accident (such as a fall) or from contact sports, the brain can impact the side of the skull and a concussion may result. And with severe blows, the impact to the brain can be traumatic enough to cause a hemorrhage or bleeding, which can put a dangerous amount of pressure on the brain.
The symptoms of a concussion can vary greatly depending on the force and strength of the impact. Headaches and a confused or tired feeling are common, as are dizziness, nausea and vomiting and a ringing in the ears. In more severe cases the blow may cause someone to lose consciousness, have memory and sleep problems and develop drastic changes in mood or behavior.
To determine if a concussion is present, a physician will conduct a neurological exam to test memory, thinking, balance, vision and coordination. If a concussion is suspected follow up x-rays or CT scans will be ordered, and a patient may be hospitalized if swelling or bleeding in the brain is detected.
For mild concussions rest and cessation of physical activities is required. Medications can be prescribed to manage pain, and the patient should be observed for at least 24 hours and checked that symptoms don’t get any worse. It’s especially important that, if a concussion has occurred before (second impact syndrome), proper and complete healing of the brain take place; if subsequent head injuries occur the brain may swell quickly and cause a life-threatening situation.