A concussion is the most common and thankfully least damaging form of brain injury. That doesn’t make them any less scary or unpleasant to experience though. There are two specific reasons a person will suffer a concussion:
- The brain hits the skull in a forceful way, such as being tackled in a football game.
- The neural tissue strains from excessive force, often indirectly such as whiplash in a car accident.
This article explores concussions, focusing on symptoms and treatment.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION
When the brain experiences a traumatic injury, it can affect how it functions. The injury may cause bruising, or damage to the nerves or blood vessels. The end result is a brain not functioning as it should.
There are three types of concussion. Doctors will rank the severity based on symptoms:
- GRADE 1. A mild concussion with no loss of consciousness. Symptoms usually last less than 15 minutes.
- GRADE 2. Moderate symptoms are present and persistent, but with no loss of consciousness.
- GRADE 3. The most severe form of a concussion where the person loses consciousness, even just for a few seconds.
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
The brain is made from soft tissue and is well protected by the skull and spinal fluid. Sometimes a blow to the head though, can still cause your brain to literally shift or bounce around.
Falls are the most common cause of a concussion. Playing contact sports, especially without proper safety gear is a leading risk factor as well. If you’ve suffered a concussion previously, you’re also more likely to experience one again.
SYMPTOMS OF A CONCUSSION
It can be difficult to diagnose a concussion. A person may seriously bang their head, causing a visible cut, bruise or lump, but there is no concussion. Meanwhile a person may have no visible marks, but suffer a Grade 3 concussion. It may also take days or weeks for symptoms to appear.
The list of possible symptoms is long, which can complicate diagnoses as well:
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or a dazed feeling
- Excessive fatigue
- Irritability or depression
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory Loss or repeating yourself
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with taste or smell
- Ringing in the ears
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Slurred speech
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
You can expect to need several days of rest. In fact, rest is so important, not getting enough will likely extend your recovery period. Post-Concussion Syndrome is also possible, causing symptoms to last months, even years; another reason to seek medical treatment if you suspect a concussion.
While you’re resting there are some things you can do to help speed up your recovery.
- DRINK WATER: Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to speed up your recovery. More and more evidence is showing that dehydration increases the risk of a concussion in the first place, and slows the recoveryprocess too.
- EAT MORE PROTEIN: Branched-chain amino acids, found in meats, fish, beans, and nuts help improve the cognitive symptoms from a concussion such as poor balance or inability to concentrate.
- REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME: The bright lights cause eye strain which will enhance your symptoms, especially headaches.
- LIMIT LOUD SOUNDS: You’ll probably find you’re a bit more sensitive to loud noises, especially immediately following the accident. Keeping the radio on low will help reduce sensitivities.
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL
Your doctor will eventually give you permission to resume regular activities. Remember that you need to ease back into them, slowly. If your concussion symptoms return, or worsen, then you’re pushing yourself too hard. Listening to your body and communicating with your doctor is the most important thing to do during this time.