Concussion from the Latin concutere, which means “to shake violently, is a temporary unconsciousness or confusion and other symptoms caused by a blow to the head. It is the most common type of traumatic brain injury but it can be tricky to diagnose. Though you may have a visible cut or bruise on your head, you can’t actually see a concussion. It is believed to result from internal shearing leading to the tearing of axon tracts (nerve pathways) within the brain.
Concussions are graded as mild (grade 1), moderate (grade 2), or severe (grade 3), depending on such factors as loss of consciousness, amnesia (loss of memory) and loss of balance.
In the event of a suspected concussion a doctor may test coordination and reflexes to check the functions of the central nervous system and may order a brain to rule out bleeding or swelling within the brain. If a concussion is sustained during athletic activity the match referee/ sports coach may ask you simple questions to check memory and concentration skills such as “Where do you live?,” or “What is your name?” and insist that you stop play and sit it out. This is because the brain needs time to properly heal, so rest is key. Recovery is good for patients with less than 24hrs post-traumatic amnesia.
Even a minor concussion is dangerous because repeat concussions have cumulative effects on the brain, resulting in brain swelling, permanent brain injury, long-term disability, personality change, epilepsy or even death.
By its very nature a concussion is unexpected, so it is difficult to prevent. Here are three common-sense precautions you can take to lessen the possibility of traumatic brain injury.
- Wear protective head gear.Participation in high-contact, high-risk sports such as all types of football, hurling, hockey and boxing can increase the likelihood of a concussion. Skateboarding, snowboarding, horseback riding, cycling and roller blading are also a threat to your brain’s health. Wearing headgear, padding, and mouth and eye guards can help safeguard against traumatic head injuries. Wearing a bike helmet can lower the risk of traumatic head injury by 85%. Ensure that the equipment is properly fitted, well maintained, and worn consistently.
- Drive smart. Always wear a seat belt (even as a passenger in a back seat), obey posted speed limits, and don’t use drugs or alcohol when driving, because they can impair reaction time.
- Don’t fight. Concussions are often sustained during a punch-up, and more males than females report traumatic head injuries.