by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Concussions are the most common form of traumatic brain injury. Over the years there have been many terms used for concussions including, mild brain injury, mild head injury, mild traumatic brain injury and minor head trauma. Concussions are defined as “head injury with a temporary loss of brain function”.
Concussions are most commonly associated with sports theses days with all the publicity in that area. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that between 70 -90% of the head injuries that are treated are considered mild. However, it is also believed that their figure is misleading because not only do many concussions go unreported there are also a variety of definitions of concussion and they vary significantly in some cases. Some estimate that at least 25% of people that suffer concussions do not seek treatment or report them to anyone. Children 14 years of age and under have the highest rate of concussions followed by those in the 15-34 years of age group. Studies also indicate that males receive concussions twice as often as females. However, some researchers believe that female athletes have a higher risk of receiving a concussion than male athletes. Concussions make up 5% of sports injuries. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention that at least 300,000 concussions related to sports occur in the US every year. However, that number only refers to those athletes that lost consciousness, and that only occurs in less than 10%of all concussions, the actual number is probably much higher.
Our brain is very soft and similar to jello so it can be damaged very easily, for this reason it is protected by a layer of fluid, the cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds it keeping it cushioned against everyday jars and bumps. Because our brain is floating is cerebrospinal fluid when we receive a severe hit to our head it causes the brain to slam into our skull and depending on the force of the hit and how much of the brain made contact with the skull, the concussion can be mild with no loss of consciousness to severe with loss of consciousness.
Concussions have been in the news more and more recently as the number of sports related concussions increases. Though sports is the most common cause of concussions there are others including being in an auto accident, a soldier in combat, and victims of physical abuse. If you have a history of previous concussions you are at risk for receiving others and it requires less force of impact to cause them.
Currently there are at least 41 different grading systems to measure the severity of concussions. The three most commonly used are the Cantu guidelines, Colorado Medical Society guidelines and the American Academy of Neurology guidelines. the three are very similar only varying slightly on the number of minutes the symptoms last. All three guidelines have 3 “grades” of severity.
Grade I – confusion, with no loss of consciousness.
Grade II confusion, post traumatic amnesia and no loss of consciousness.
Grade III any loss of consciousness.
The symptoms of a concussion can vary significantly from no apparent symptoms to loss of consciousness depending on it’s severity. Some people don’t develop symptoms immediately after injury, it can take several hours for some to exhibit symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with concussions are headache, confusion, and amnesia.
The best and most effective treatment for concussions is rest. That is both physical and mental rest, especially for children. That means avoiding certain activities like playing video games, using electronic devices including texting on your cell, and watching Tv.
Prevention has become the focus of “treating” concussions. There have been significant improvements in head protection gear as well as increased use of head protection. Rules in sports are changing to improve safety in many sports and in public policy, for example all states require the use of seatbelts.
Concussions have both short term and long term side effects that are not fully understood, but there are indications that the long term effects of concussions, especially multiple concussions, can be devastating.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.