What is Concussion?

A concussion is a hurtful brain injury. Depending on the injury's severity, it may or may not affect your brain function. Such damages are most caused by violent blows to the head. That’s why harsh falls and head-on collisions often lead to this condition. This type of injury is common for contact sport players (footballers, soccer players, boxers, etc.).

Most symptoms of this injury resolve within three weeks, but the underlying effects may be long-lasting. Some common symptoms include constant headaches, inability to concentrate, memory-related issues, and balance/coordination issues. Sometimes, injured patients may lose consciousness, but most don’t.

These types of blows to the head overstretch and contuse nerves and blood vessels. These damages trigger chemical changes in the brain. These changes could lead to loss of normal brain functions – temporarily or permanently. Multiple concussions can even cause structural changes to the brain.

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A concussion is a hurtful brain injury. Depending on the injury's severity, it may or may not affect your brain function.

Symptoms of Concussion

Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of this condition are very subtle. They may show up out of the blue and last for days, weeks, months, years, or even longer. Here are the common symptoms of concussive traumatic brain injuries –

  • Physical symptoms – headaches, nausea, fatigue, ringing in the ears, drowsiness, and blurry vision.
  • Mental symptoms – confusion, fugue state, amnesia about the injury event, and dizziness.
  • Physiological symptoms – irritability, unexpected personality changes, sensitivity to light, oversensitivity to noise causing sleep disturbances, taste and smell disorders.
  • Psychological symptoms - Temporary loss of consciousness, depression, anxiety, slurred speech, inability to respond to questions, forgetfulness.

Causes of Concussion

We suffer from concussive traumatic brain injuries because our brain tissues are soft and malleable. They are enclosed by cerebrospinal fluids. These fluids protect the soft tissues from the hard skulls. When we experience concussive traumatic brain injuries, the brain tissues breakthrough this fluid and collide with the insides of the skull. This unexpected stretching damages brain cells and can trigger chemical changes. These changes may be temporary or have permanent consequences. Some of the leading causes of concussive traumatic brain injuries include -

Motor vehicle accidents

Slip and fall accidents

Sports injuries

When to See a Physiotherapist to Treat Your Concussion

Recipients of concussive traumatic brain injuries must visit a doctor within 24 hours of the injury incident. Even if emergency care isn’t required, it’s better to assess the extent of the damage. If the patient doesn’t have any symptoms of a serious head injury, put him/her under observation. If worrisome signs start developing, seek emergency care.

Patients must not wait to seek emergency care if their concussive traumatic brain injuries lead to symptoms like:

  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Difficulties with physical coordination (e.g., stumbling)
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation (e.g., difficulty identifying people)
  • Sudden changes in behavior, mood.
  • Progressive weakness in the limbs.
  • Unstoppable ringing in the ears.
  • Visual impairments (e.g., dilated pupils).
  • Fluid draining from the nose/ears.
  • Headaches that keep getting worse with time.
  • Losses of consciousness for more than 60 seconds.
  • Repeated vomiting.

To ensure these symptoms don’t worsen over time, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. That’s why athletes who suffer from concussive traumatic brain injuries are legally obliged to take breaks from vigorous activities. Similarly, regular patients of this condition must also visit health care professionals who are trained in evaluating and treating concussions.

Concussion – Key Risks and Complications

Although concussive traumatic brain injuries can happen to anyone, people who are at greater risk for this condition are the ones with weak heads. For example, senior citizens and children under the age of four are at high risk of receiving concussive traumatic brain injuries, even from simple accidents like falls. Other at-risk people - adolescents who partake in sports-related activities, car accident victims, and victims of physical abuse.

These injuries can lead to severe complications, syndromes, and conditions such as -

  • Post-concussion syndrome.
  • Higher risk of depression (especially victims of multiple concussive traumatic brain injuries).
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Permanent structural changes to the brain.
  • Memory loss and dementia.

How to Prevent Getting Concussion? 

Just like accidents, concussive traumatic brain injuries impact the lives of patients unexpectedly. The effects of such injuries vary. For example, many can take injuries to the head without feeling any pain. These are “sub-concussive blows” that impact the brain in the long run. Also, there is no set amount of damage that can definitively result in concussive injuries.

You can be in the worst car accident of all time and still walk away with a healthy brain. Or, you can hit your head against the lamppost and experience permanent brain damage. However, there are some basic safety steps to avoid getting such injuries.

  • Drive safe and defensively (only drive cars with airbags).
  • Avoid risky moves/behaviors in sports (e.g., headbutting your opponent).
  • Helmets or mouth guards don’t prevent concussions, so beware of the second-impact syndrome after initial concussions.
  • Get tested by doctors to ensure you don’t have long-term brain damage.

Treatments for Concussion

There are many non-invasive and drug-free physical therapy treatments that help victims of concussive traumatic brain injuries. A top physical therapist will –

  • Use MRI tests, CT scans, and other tests to identify problems caused by the head injury. They include muscle strength tests, coordination evaluation, balance tests, memory tests, etc.
  • After examining the patient’s neurological and cardiovascular systems, physiotherapists prescribe individualized treatment plans.
  • Physiotherapists limit heavy physical activities (sports, the use of heavy electronics, etc.). By doing so, they give the injured patient’s brain much-needed rest.
  • Physiotherapists treat the patient’s specific concussion symptoms via strength and endurance exercises. Since brain injuries often result in muscle weakness, these exercises are vital for regaining strength and endurance.

Overall, physiotherapists design customized therapeutic exercise programs for patients. They closely monitor the symptoms as patients pass the different steps of the program.

Related Conditions

Since external factors often have adverse effects on our brains’ functioning, many people confuse dizziness, confusion, and dehydration with concussive traumatic brain injuries. Some related conditions include – amnesia, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and Alzheimer’s disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who can treat my brain injury?
Doctors, healthcare providers, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and physiotherapists who specialize in this condition.
2. What kind of physical therapy do I need?
Physiotherapists who are experienced in treating people create customized treatment programs for different patients.
3. How to select a physiotherapist?
Always look for board-certified physiotherapists who have advanced knowledge and experience in treating this condition.

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