A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The term “TBI” covers brain injuries of varying severity, from mild to severe. Concussions are at the mild end of the spectrum and are characterized by a temporary alteration in brain function caused by an external force. Although most people recover fully from a concussion, the brain is vulnerable to further injury during the recovery period. Severe THIs can involve prolonged unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury, and they often have more significant and long-lasting effects on cognitive, physical, and emotional function.
Most concussions resolve without long-term effects, but some individuals may experience persistent symptoms known as post-concussion syndrome. Repeating concussions or sustaining one while still recovering from a previous one can increase the risk of long-term effects.
Yes, sustaining multiple concussions over time, even if individually they might seem minor, can indeed have a cumulative effect on the brain. This is sometimes known as “second impact syndrome,” particularly when a second concussion occurs before the brain has fully healed from the first. Over time, repeated concussions can lead to prolonged recovery times and increase the risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head traumas. It underscores the importance of full recovery before returning to activities that risk additional head injury.
While concussions are often associated with a direct blow to the head, they can also be caused by any force that results in a rapid movement of the head. This can include a whiplash-type injury or a fall where the head doesn’t necessarily hit anything but moves rapidly enough to cause the brain to bounce or twist inside the skull, leading to damage. The key aspect is the force and speed of movement, which can cause the brain to collide with the inner walls of the skull.
Yes, concussions can affect executive functioning, which includes skills such as planning, organizing, problem-solving, and decision-making. Difficulties in these areas may be experienced temporarily and can impact daily activities and work performance.
Yes, indeed, children and teenagers can get concussions. In fact, they are often more at risk due to their involvement in physical activities, sports, and, in general, more accident-prone behavior. The still-developing nature of their brains might influence the concussion impact and their recovery trajectory. Because children and teens might not always be able to communicate their symptoms effectively, adults need to be vigilant in spotting the signs of a concussion, such as changes in behavior, balance, or academic performance. It’s essential to seek immediate medical attention if a concussion is suspected to ensure they get the appropriate care and rest needed to recover.
While rare, concussions can potentially increase the risk of seizures, especially if the injury involves a more severe brain trauma. It is important to monitor for any seizure activity and seek medical attention if seizures occur.
Repeated concussions can potentially lead to a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is associated with long-term neurological problems like memory loss, confusion, personality changes, and problems with speech and gait. It’s also linked to an increased risk of other neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s disease. That said, most single concussions do not cause permanent brain damage if properly managed and enough recovery time is allowed before returning to high-risk activities.
Athletes are monitored for concussions during sports games in several ways. Team medical staff and coaches keep a close eye on players, watching for any signs of possible concussion, such as appearing dazed or confused, stumbling, or displaying uncoordinated movements. Many sports leagues and schools also have concussion protocols in place that require players suspected of having a concussion to be immediately removed from play and assessed. Some sports use sideline assessment tools like the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT), which includes a series of tests to evaluate an athlete’s physical and cognitive function.
Yes, concussions can affect coordination and motor skills. Balance problems, difficulty with fine motor tasks, or coordination issues may be experienced temporarily. Rehabilitation exercises and therapy may be recommended to address these challenges.