Questions and answers
Learning about concussions – some common questions answered
The working definition used today for concussion is “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces” (developed by the consensus panel at the 1st International Conference on Concussion in Sport that was held in Vienna, Austria in 2001). Put simply, a concussion changes the way our brain functions – causes it to work less optimally. It may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an “impulsive” force transmitted to the head. A Concussion may or may not involve loss of consciousness (loss of consciousness is not a diagnostic requirement). In fact, less than 20% of concussions result in a loss of consciousness. (Shift Concussion Management)
In organized high school sports, concussions occur more often in competitive sports, with football accounting for more than 60% of concussions. For males, the leading cause of high school sports concussion is football; for females the leading cause of high school sports concussion is soccer.
Among children and youth ages 5-18 years old, the five leading sports or recreational activities which account for concussions include: bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities, and soccer.
In all suspected cases of concussion, the person should stop the activity right away. Continuing increases their risk of more severe, longer-lasting concussion symptoms, as well as increases their risk of other injury. Anyone with a suspected concussion should be checked out by a medical doctor. If any red flag symptoms are present, get medical help immediately. If the person is unconscious, call an ambulance. Do not move the person or remove any equipment, such as a helmet, in case of a spine injury. (Parachute)
Concussion Red Flags
- Person complains of neck pain
- Deteriorating conscious state
- Increasing confusion or irritability
- Severe or increasing headache
- Repeated vomiting
- Unusual behavior change
- Seizure or convulsion
- Double vision
- Weakness or tingling / burning in arms or legs
Second Impact Syndrome is a rare, but serious consequence of head trauma, which results in rapid swelling of the brain – potentially leading to severe disability or death. Controversy exists as to whether second impact syndrome is a product of cumulative head trauma (when an athlete sustains a concussion while still suffering the effects of a previous concussion), or if it is simply a product of a single, mild traumatic brain injury.
Regardless of its cause, second impact syndrome is a severe consequence of head injury in young athletes. There should be absolutely NO return to play while an athlete is displaying signs and symptoms of a concussion, regardless of the level of competition.
Post-Concussion Syndrome, or PCS, is the persistence of concussion symptoms beyond the normal course of recovery. In cases where symptoms last longer than one month , doctors may diagnose Post-Concussion Syndrome. Patients with PCS can experience concussion-like symptoms at rest or in response to too much physical or cognitive activity, often forcing them to withdraw from their usual physical, professional, and social lives. (Concussion Legacy Foundation)
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Brain trauma can cause a build-up of an abnormal type of a protein called tau, which slowly kills brain cells. Once started, these changes in the brain appear to continue to progress even after exposure to brain trauma has ended. Possible symptoms include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually progressive dementia. Symptoms can begin to appear months, years, or even decades after trauma has ended. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed after death by brain tissue analysis.