A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has brought the link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) within the United States’ most popular professional sports league, the National Football League (NFL), to the public sphere. Once again, football has made concussions a hot topic issue in America.
This recent study closely examined the brains of deceased football players. It is somewhat flawed because almost all of the families who allowed their loved ones’ brains to be studied had a strong inclination that their deceased ex-NFL family member had CTE. Still, this study is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how prevalent concussions have become in football and all contact sports.
A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury that affects brain function that results from any kind of external force striking a person’s head. For the most part, concussions will not be deadly, but even when a person suffers from a concussion and appears completely normal days afterwards, there still can be a serious brain injury which can cause damage that can affect how that person focuses and thinks clearly. In some instances, concussions, or a series of concussions, can cause serious, long-lasting problems with a person’s speaking, learning and overall movement capabilities. Even though these cases can be rare it’s extremely important to take even a person’s very first concussion very seriously by getting proper medical attention.
This page aims to help everyone better understand the entire nature of concussions in terms of what causes them, the symptoms that commonly are exhibited by concussion casualties, the diagnoses medical professionals give to people with concussions, the treatment process and tips for prevention. By going through all of this information, you will be more than ready to tackle your own or your loved one’s concussion and know exactly what you need to do, or not do, in order to replenish a concussion victim’s brain function to their fullest abilities.
Common Causes of Concussions
In order to fully understand the causes of concussions, it’s important to understand that anatomy of the human brain. A person’s brain is soft and delicate, and our cranial cavities include a mass of spinal fluid surrounding our brains that functions as a cushion between our hard skulls. What happens when a person gets a concussion is that they’ve been hit hard enough in the head to the point that the spinal fluid isn’t enough of a cushion, which causes the brain to bang up against the skull and be adversely affected.
There are endless amounts of ways in which someone can induce a hit to the head that’s hard enough to cause a concussion, but some of the more common causes include the following:
- Motor vehicle accident — Although all companies who manufacture cars have worked tirelessly to minimize the chances of brain injuries in cases of a collision, there still is not much any safety features can do when someone gets in a severe auto accident or isn’t wearing their seatbelt in a more minor accident.
- Fights and falls — Getting in a violent fight of any kind can always lead to a concussion if you get hit in the head hard enough, and even a slight stumble while casually walking can lead to a concussion if you hit your head on the ground or some kind of hard object. Young children and elderly people are at a much higher risk for tripping, falling and causing a mild traumatic brain injury.
- Recreational or sports injury — Many people enjoy doing some kind of recreational or sports activity because it’s often a fun way to stay healthy and live life to the fullest, but injuries are a common downside to these types of activities. When it comes to high-contact sports like football, concussions can be created through slight bumps on the head during competition or in practice. The sports that have much higher than average concussion rates include soccer, lacrosse, football, boxing, hockey, rugby, skiing/snowboarding and bicycling.
For parents of young children, it’s also very important to understand that kids can easily suffer a concussion while playing on a playground, so taking the proper precautions is always necessary.
Being able to identify a concussion can be difficult, and it’s important to distinguish that a person does not need to lose consciousness at all to have a concussion, and concussions range in classifications from mild to severe. The amount of time that symptoms can last is largely connected to the injury’s severity, which means symptoms can last only a couple of hours up to multiple months.
A concussion technically involves the brain moving out of its normal position for a moment in time that leads to a disruption in the electrical activities the brain is used to conducting, which leads to many symptoms including:
- Memory problems
- Problems with coordination or balance
- Difficulty speaking or concentrating
- Behavior changes
- Feeling groggy
- Insomnia/sleep problems
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Ringing in the ears
Any of these symptoms can show up days or even weeks after the original accident, so it’s important to keep these signs and symptoms in mind for yourself or your loved one.
For young children it can be harder to distinguish whether or not they have suffered from a concussion, although they may exhibit some of the above symptoms. The following list is a sign of concussion symptoms for young children:
- Persistent headache
- Crying more than usual
- Changes in the way they act or play with friends
- Changes in how they sleep, eat or nurse
- More temper tantrums or being easily upset
- A sad mood
- Lack of interest in favorite toys or usual activities
- Loss of newer skills (ex. Toilet training)
- Trouble walking or with balance
- Trouble paying attention
Concussion Severity Classifications
In order to fully understand the symptoms and treatment of concussions, one must also fully understand how the severity of concussions vary by the following grades:
Grade 1 (mild)
This type of concussion usually entails some kind of brief memory loss and confusion at the time of the injury and can lead to dizziness and nausea. This grade of concussion does not entail any kind of loss of consciousness, and the symptoms of mild concussions can last for an hour or so, but can also linger for a few days. For the most part, mild concussions are caused by athletic collisions, car accidents and general mishaps.
Grade 2 (moderate)
The signs of this type of concussion are very similar to mild concussions, but a big difference between grades 1 and 2 is that grade 2 concussions can have symptoms that last up to an entire day after the accident, and sometimes can lead to a loss of consciousness for several minutes.
Grade 3 (severe)
Severe concussions are when someone loses consciousness and exhibits lasting symptoms for weeks after an accident. In rare cases, someone who suffers from a severe concussion will get amnesia and have difficulty speaking or understanding. Severe concussions can be signs of mild brain damage, so it’s always essential to get as much professional treatment as necessary.
How to Diagnose a Concussion
If you or a loved one has potentially suffered from a concussion, it’s important to seek out the help of a doctor as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis.
A doctor will be able to tell if someone has suffered from a concussion by understanding the circumstances of how the injury occurred, and they’ll ask questions about the injury first and foremost. Once a doctor has a strong inclination that a concussion has occurred, they’ll begin to conduct tests to verify the severity of the concussion.
These tests can vary and can include your doctor asking questions that test the patient’s attention span and memory, as well as problem solving skills. A doctor will also examine a patient’s balance, coordination, reflexes, strength and sensation abilities.
Over the past 15 years or so, neuroscientists have been able to learn a lot more about concussions and traumatic brain injuries through the use of technology, and today neuropsychological testing is widely conducted in order to diagnose all classifications of concussions. These are very intricate tests that examine a person’s thinking and memory after a concussion and can even examine emotions and mood changes.
MRI and CT scans are commonly used by doctors when they suspect a concussion has occurred in a patient, but these scans are usually precautionary measures to make sure there is not brain bleeding or bruising taking place.
Treatment for Concussions
It’s extremely important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after suffering a concussion, and within the initial 24 hours of the injury the victim will need someone with them to make sure they’re fine. It’s also crucial to get someone to the emergency room if they exhibit the following symptoms within the first 24 hours after suffering from a concussion:
- Repeated vomiting
- Cannot be woken up
- Seizures or convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
- Problem recognizing people
- One pupil larger than the other
In general, the best way to treat a concussion is by resting as much as necessary, and as someone slowly gets back to their regular activities, they’ll need to be aware of their symptoms and notice them while they are doing certain activities. If you notice symptoms in a loved one, that means they are pushing themselves too hard and need to rest for a day or so.
Avoiding any physically demanding activities like sports or general exertion needs to be avoided well after the symptoms subside. Also, mentally demanding activities should be limited, including reading, watching TV, playing video games, using the computer or anything that requires a significant amount of concentration.
Sometimes a doctor will recommend that a child has shortened school days or an adult has shorter work days so that they can still assimilate back into their normal lives, but not push themselves and their mental capabilities too quickly. As symptoms improve, you can bring more workloads in and concentrate for longer periods of time.
Sometimes it will be fine to do light physical activity like jogging or riding a stationary bike, but only if symptoms are getting better and not worse by doing so. It’s so important not to get back into sports too quickly after suffering a concussion because coming back too soon will greatly increase the chances of getting another concussion and more serious brain damage.
The following are some tips to help your concussion treatment be more efficient:
- Get enough sleep at night, and take naps if possible during the day
- Do not do any drugs or drink alcohol
- Do not take any medications that are not approved by your doctor
- Don’t do anything too physically or mentally demanding
- Use an ice pack on swelling for 10-20 minutes at a time a couple times per day
- Use your pain medication responsibly, either prescribed or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
We have a TBI Resource Guide for those living with severe brain injuries.
There are many things that you can do to prevent your chances of getting a concussion, including the following:
- Always wear a seat belt
- Never drink and drive
- Make your home less accident prone for falls
- Wear a helmet for all extreme recreational activities
For children, it can be a little bit different simply because they just aren’t aware of how to protect themselves in certain situations, but you can help children prevent concussions by doing the following:
- Use car and booster seats until the child is ready for regular seat belts
- Teach your children bicycle safety precautions
- Teach your kids how to be safe around cars and on streets
- Teach your child safety rules for playing in a playground
- Help as much as you can to avoid sports injuries (safe playing techniques)
- Keep your child safe from slipping and falling
Contact an Experienced Indianapolis Brain Injury Lawyer
Contact a legal counsel if you believe your accident was a result of the negligence of others. We are personal injury attorneys with a track record of successful claims. Contact us today for a no-string-attached free consultation today.