A concussion is a traumatic head injury that can occur due to a mild or severe blow to the head. Often times, a head injury can appear mild. However, research indicates that there are serious, long-term effects of concussions. In addition, cumulative concussions from repeated head injuries have long-term consequences.
A recent study done on the effects of concussions in high school athletes discovered that even the less severe concussions can have long lasting effects, especially if the athlete goes back to playing too soon, or has a history of head injuries.
What Happens When A Concussion Occurs?
Under normal circumstances, the brain floats in a protective pool of spinal fluid within the skull. However, certain events like a car accident or hard tackle can cause the brain to slam into the interior walls of the skull. Depending on the intensity of the injury and the brains ability to realign, the damage can be mild to severe. Most people will recover from a mild concussion within just a few hours, yet a more severe injury may cause symptoms for a number of weeks.
For the first few minute following a head injury, the affected party may experience a loss of consciousness, dizziness, uneven dilation of the pupils or weakness to one side of the body. In some cases, the injured individual may feel nauseated or break out in convulsions.
When Symptoms Remain
When the concussion is mild to moderate, the symptoms will dissipate within a few hours with rest. The person may still have problems with orientation or vision, but over time, the brain will recover.
However, when the sustained concussion is severe, the individual may experience an extended loss of consciousness, depression, mood swings or even bleeding in the brain. A CT Scan or MRI as soon as possible following the injury will be able to determine the severity of the concussion. Bruising and bleeding of the brain is not always considered life threatening, but undiagnosed conditions can be triggered in the event of a concussion.
About fifteen percent of individuals who suffer a concussion experience post-concussion syndrome, with symptoms that may last for weeks after the injury is healed. In some cases, the effects of a concussion can last for a year or longer.
The reasons for post-concussion syndrome are not clear to doctors and medical researchers. No correlations between the severity of the injury and the development of post-concussion syndrome have been found. In fact, a number of researchers believe that post-concussion syndrome is entirely psychological. However, others argue that there is definitely a medical cause for the condition, even though such a cause remains unidentified.
Post-concussion syndrome tends to be somewhat more prevalent among older individuals, making age an identifiable factor for the condition. In addition, women also seem to be more at risk for being affected by the syndrome than men are.
Essentially, the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome are the same as the symptoms of a concussion that last beyond the first couple of weeks following a head injury. Post-concussion syndrome symptoms include:
• Changes in mood, such as an increase in irritability
• Changes in memory
• Difficulty sleeping
• Sensitivity to noise or light
Treating post-concussion syndrome begins with the treatment of the initial concussion. If you lose consciousness following a head injury, you are likely to have a concussion. If the symptoms of the concussion have not passed within a few weeks, your doctor may decide to do a follow-up MRI test to determine why the injury has not healed completely.
Often times, the severity of a head injury is underestimated. Therefore, it makes good sense to pay a visit to your doctor if you sustain a head injury that leads to the symptoms of a mild to severe concussion.