Why does concussion deserve all of our attention?
Ever since we were children, we have believed that standing up after falling is an act of valor. It has helped us get away with bruises on our knees and elbows, and maybe a couple of bones too in the past. However, no one ever told us what to do after we hit our head from a fall. We have always assumed that “stand up and go” applies to these situations as well, but hard hits to the head can make us feel dizzy, disoriented, and nauseous. It is not always possible to resume our task immediately after receiving a sharp blow to the head. Even for the strongest person, a blunt impact to the head can become a coup de grace.
Thanks to the advents of modern medicine and extensive studies of human physiology, it has come to the attention of neurologists, neuroscientists, and other brain experts that some wounds deserve more attention than others. Brain injury sits at the top of the rung of all severe injuries that require expert care, diagnosis, and treatment. In recent times, concussions have forced several veteran football and hockey players into early retirement. According to some experts, the rising awareness about concussions is affecting the world of professional sports as it has never done before. That raises an obvious question – are we taking mild traumatic brain injuries too seriously?
Why is every brain injury equally important?
In the words of renowned neurosurgeons, no one can call any form of traumatic brain injury unimportant or less severe than another. It is sad to see the sports world taking a hit due to the rising awareness of concussions, but we might not be giving mild TBIs the attention they deserve at all. A concussion can impact the lifestyle, personality, and future decisions of a person. In 2012 the American Association of Neurological Surgeons published a study that took a look at 45 high school varsity football players. Interestingly, none of them received a clinical diagnosis of concussion during their playing season. However, they demonstrated concussive signs that usually result from mild TBIs. It was a groundbreaking study that showed that clinical concussions are not always necessary to accelerate the changes in the brain. Concussions can result from accelerative effects during which the brain bangs onto the anterior and posterior surfaces of the skull. The researchers concluded the study by stating that a single season can produce changes in the brain similar to that of overt concussions.
What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Similar studies in the following years have paved the way for Second Impact Syndrome. It is a sudden swelling of the brain that results from a second impact after the organ is already recovering from an initial hit. Among the survivors of the second impact syndrome, 100% have lifelong neurological impairments, emotional and behavioral changes. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) including nausea, headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness can last for days. The PCS period makes the person vulnerable to physical injuries and other concussive episodes in the future. It is an eye-opening statistic that goes on to show that people, who have already experienced their first concussion, are always in danger of suffering another serious one shortly.
The common PCS symptoms usually include the following –
- Persistent headaches
- Vertigo, dizziness, and nausea
- Physical fatigue, unexplained pain
- High sensitivity to light and loud noises
- Disturbances in sleep, including difficulty in falling asleep, remaining asleep, or remaining awake
- Changes in emotional health and key behavioral traits
- Brain fogs or cognitive impairment that includes poor attention span, or short-term memory loss
For learning more about PCS symptom management, visit concussion answers today! Sometimes, these effects go away on their own, but for some of the unfortunate individuals, they can persist for weeks or months, or even years without expert intervention. Since imaging studies can rarely find any physiological or structural changes that can lead to the PCS symptoms, surgeries are not practical solutions.
What factors increase the chances of a concussion?
Especially in cases of athletes, who have participated in similar studies, not one but multiple hits result in PCS-like symptoms. In the case of American football players, the head sustains several impacts that fall in the category of sub-concussive hits before giving way to concussive episodes. Hundreds or even thousands of sub-concussive hits are possible that pave the way for the final symptomatic blow resulting in a mild traumatic brain injury.
For those not involved in high-intensity sports, falls from bikes, skiing accidents, random falls on the ground or even the occasional fist fighting as children could have resulted in multiple sub-concussive episodes that the doctors have failed to diagnose clinically. The presence of such weak spots on the brain increases the probability of sustaining a symptomatic blow soon. Just because the brain does not show any symptoms, does not mean that the organ has not sustained an impact. Researchers and neuroscientists categorize these blows as sub-concussive or asymptomatic. According to the experts, these blows may have caused slight damage, but they were not powerful enough to elicit proper PCS symptoms.
Why do concussions deserve all our attention?
Further research shows that the presence of multiple sub-concussive hits can lead to cChronictTraumaticeEncephalopathy or CTE. CTE Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. Modern medical sciences have shown that renowned athletes have suffered from CTE without people knowing their cause or progression for years. Many times, neurologists and neurosurgeons have mistaken CTE as Alzheimer’s disease due to their similarities. It is common among football players, hockey players, and boxers with a history of repeated brain trauma. It also includes a history of asymptomatic brain injuries or sub-concussive hits that no one paid any attention to since they showed no symptoms. According to the experts, additional factors like stress, anxiety, and lifestyle choices like alcohol abuse and smoking may have exacerbated the prognosis of CTE among former NFL players.
We might see that concussions are ruining the game, but they are serious challenges that deserve the attention of the medical and research world. Concussions are not getting the fraction of importance they deserve today. It is difficult to prevent mTBIs entirely if you are actively involved in sports, but you can always reduce the dangers by donning proper protective gear, following the protocols, learning more about the symptoms and risks, and getting checkups frequently for any discomfort you feel following a blow to the head.