A concussion is the most common form of brain injury. It is caused as a result of a blow or impact to the head or upper part of the body. Concussions are a common sports injury typically seen in contact sports such as football, boxing and rugby. Concussions can interfere with normal brain function; however, the effects are usually temporary. Severe concussions can lead to long-term problems, brain damage and death if not treated properly.
Concussions typically occur when the head or upper body is struck or jarred violently. The resulting impact can cause the brain to move around the skull. During a concussion the meninges can become damaged or crushed, resulting in a hemorrhage.
Symptoms of a concussion can vary depending on the person and the severity of the injury. Some symptoms may last for only a few seconds, while others may linger. Common symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, sluggishness, dizziness, and nausea. Other symptoms may be delayed and not show up for several days after the concussion. These symptoms include lapses in memory, sensitivity to light or noise, behavior or personality changes, and sleep disorders.
Concussions are difficult to diagnose and signs of a concussion may not appear immediately. The most basic test for concussions is a neurologic exam that includes an evaluation of the patient’s memory, concentration, vision, balance and reflexes. In the event the neurologic tests suggest a concussion may be serious, a computerized tomography (CT) scan may be used to evaluate the patient’s skull and brain. Depending on the severity of the injury, overnight hospitalization may be necessary to observe the patient.
Second impact syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when a second concussion occurs before the injured brain has a chance to fully heal. This can lead to rapid and severe swelling of the brain and can greatly increase the risk of death. Treatment for concussions is dependent on the severity of the concussion itself. Typical treatment options include avoiding physical and mental activities including reading, watching TV, playing video games, texting or using a computer. Medication such as acetaminophen may be prescribed for headaches. For the first 24 hours after the concussion, it is recommended to monitor the symptoms of the concussion for signs of worsening because swelling or bleeding in the brain can occur.