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What Happens To The Brain During A Concussion

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How Can I Prevent Concussion

What happens to your brain during a concussion

To reduce the risk of concussions:

  • Always wear seatbelts in the car and buckle children in safety seats.
  • Wear a helmet that fits when biking, riding a motorcycle, skating, skiing, horseback riding, or playing contact sports. A helmet should be secure and not move when you shake your head, but not be uncomfortably tight.
  • Prevent falls on stairs by putting up handrails.
  • Install safety gates on stairs to protect young children.
  • Put grab bars in the bathroom, with nonslip mats in the tub and on floors.
  • Improve lighting and remove trip hazards.
  • Install safety guards by windows to keep children from falling out.
  • Strengthen your neck muscles. Strong neck muscles may be able to help absorb some of the impact of blows to the head and decrease the risk of concussion.

What Does The Human Brain Look Like

There are three main parts of the brain: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain stem. Each part is in charge of different things. Parts of the brain work closely together and send messages to each other and to other parts of the body to control everything we do, feel and think.

The brain has a texture like firm jelly. In most cases, a minor hit to the head does not cause any lasting problems. This is because the brain is well protected by shock-absorbing liquid called cerebro spinal fluid, layers of tissue called meninges and the hard part of the head, called the skull.

The brain is also made up of chemicals and nerve cells that send messages to different parts of the brain and body. The brain uses these messages to do important things such as:

  • Control the way our body moves
  • How we think, make decisions, learn and remember
  • How we speak
  • Our personality and behaviour
  • Our vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch
  • Things we dont think about, such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure

When Can I Return To Play After A Concussion

The #1 question athletes ask after a concussion is how soon they can start playing again. The answer is simple: When a doctor tells you it’s OK.

Concussions can be tricky: You might feel fine, but your thinking, behavior, and/or balance may not be back to normal. Only a doctor can tell these things for sure.

It’s essential to wait until the doctor says it’s safe to return to sports. But people sometimes feel pressure to start playing again they worry about letting down the team or they feel pushed by a coach. That’s one reason why most U.S. states have rules about when kids and teens can start playing sports again after a concussion. These rules are there to protect players so they’re not pushed into getting back in the game too soon when the risk of re-injury is high.

There are a number of ways doctors can tell if someone is ready to return to play. A doctor will consider you healed when:

  • the signs and symptoms of concussion are gone
  • you regain all of your memory and concentration
  • you don’t have symptoms after jogging, sprinting, sit-ups, or push-ups

When your doctor gives you the OK to start playing sports again, ease back into things. Stop playing right away if any symptoms return . With the right diagnosis and treatment, most teens with concussions recover within a week or two without lasting health problems.

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When Can Teens Go Back To Sports After A Concussion

Student athletes must wait until their health care provider says it’s safe before returning to sports. This means that they:

  • have had a physical exam
  • are back in school
  • aren’t taking any medicines for concussion symptoms
  • are back to their baseline results on physical and cognitive testing

Hurrying back to sports and other physical activities puts teens at risk for second-impact syndrome. This is when someone gets another head injury before the concussion has healed. Although very rare, second-impact syndrome can cause lasting brain damage and even death. Almost every state has rules about when teens with concussions can start playing sports again.

Concussions And Head Injuries

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The skull protects the brain against penetrating trauma, but does not absorb all the impact of a violent force. The brain is cushioned inside the skull by the surrounding cerebrospinal fluid. Despite this, an abrupt blow to the head, or even a rapid deceleration, can cause the brain to contact the inner side of the skull. There is a potential for tearing of blood vessels, pulling of nerve fibers and bruising of the brain.

Sometimes the blow can result in microscopic damage to the brain cells without obvious structural damage visible on a CT scan. In severe cases, the brain tissue can begin to swell. Since the brain cannot escape the rigid confines of the skull, severe swelling can compress the brain and its blood vessels, limiting the flow of blood. Without adequate blood flow, the brain does not receive the necessary flow of oxygen and glucose. A stroke can occur. Brain swelling after a concussion has the potential to amplify the severity of the injury.

A blow to the head can cause a more serious initial injury to the brain. A contusion is a bruise of the brain tissue involving bleeding and swelling in the brain. A skull fracture occurs when the bone of the skull breaks. A skull fracture by itself may not necessarily be a serious injury. Sometimes, however, the broken skull bones cause bleeding or other damage by cutting into the brain or its coverings.

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Primary Vs Secondary Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are further categorized as either primary or secondary injuries. Primary TBI may be understood as direct injury to the brain by some mechanical means at the time the trauma is suffered. Doctors often cannot reverse the damage from primary injuries. Instead, the treatment team aims to prevent further brain damage from occurring.

Secondary injuries are those that develop after an initial injury occurs, usually within a few days. This type of TBI is typically the bodys physiological response to an injury. Secondary TBI can occur from an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain, blood pressure issues, high intracranial pressurethis is the pressure inside the skullor infections.

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Long Term Effects Of A Concussion

Some symptoms of a concussion develop hours or days after the traumatic brain injury occurred. These symptoms include:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression and other psychological problems
  • Disorders of smell and taste

Long-term effects of concussion are rare. In fact, the vast majority of people see any symptoms resolve within a few weeks. Only about 20 percent of people might suffer from post-concussion syndrome, where they continue to experience symptoms after six weeks. However, the more concussions you get, the more likely you are to suffer long term consequences, especially if you dont give your brain enough time to heal between injuries.

At some level, concussions result in a brain injury, so were certainly worried about the accumulative affects of concussions, says Gregory Hawryluk, MD, neurosurgeon and concussion specialist at University of Utah Health. Were starting to learn that perhaps these seemingly minor blows to the head, when theyre accumulative, can lead to depression and behavior change. In fact, we think that some suicides may be linked to the brain damage that results from multiple concussions.

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Does A Concussion Occur Exactly Where The Blow To The Head Occurs Are There Worse Areas Of The Brain To Have A Concussion

The force of a hit can cause a concussion on the part of the brain that was directly hit or on the opposite side of the brain .

Different areas of the brain control different functions, so blows to your head can predict your symptoms. A concussion to the back of the brain causes balance issues, fogginess, neck pain and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms usually predict a longer recovery from a concussion.

How Can Brain Imaging Help Me

What Happens To Your Brain During A Concussion?

When you go to the ER or see a medical professional, they will make a concussion diagnosis based on their evaluation of your symptoms. The most accessible brain imaging devices, like MRI or CT, usually show no evidence of brain injury in concussion patients. As we explained above, concussions occur at the cellular level, so the damage is too small to be seen with these scans. Though MRI and CT are not useful alone for diagnosing a concussion, they are valuable for ruling out more serious TBI-related structural damage to the brain and skull, such as bleeding. See our immediate care page for red-flag symptoms that may require follow-up with a medical professional.

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What Happens In The Brain After A Concussion

Phys Ed

Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.

A remarkable allowed scientists to see inside the skull and brain of animals that had just experienced a concussion, providing sobering new evidence of how damaging even minor brain impacts can be. While the results, which were published in Nature, are worrisome, they also hint at the possibility of treating concussions and lessening their harm.

Concussions occur when the brain bounces against the skull after someones head is bumped or jolted. Such injuries are fairly common in contact sports, like football and hockey, and there is growing concern that repeated concussions might contribute to lingering problems with thinking or memory. This concern was heightened this week by reports that the brain of the late major league baseball player Ryan Freel showed symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition. He reportedly had been hit in the head multiple times during his career.

So scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health, decided to develop a less destructive means of seeing inside skulls and came up with the deceptively simple method of shaving away microscopic layers of a lab mouses skull, thinning it to the point that powerful microscopic lenses could see through it, even as the skull remained essentially intact.

Are There Any Cures For Concussion Besides Rest

There is no doubt that rest helps a brain recover from a concussion. There is research going on to determine how much rest is needed, but each concussion is treated individually. Typically, mental and physical rest is advocated. There is also research going on looking at medications that may be useful to prevent the progression of concussion, based on the physiology of what happens when the brain is initially concussed, and to help the brain “heal” more quickly.

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Types Of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Although described as individual injuries, a person who has suffered a TBI is more likely to have a combination of injuries, each of which may have a different level of severity. This makes answering questions like âwhat part of the brain is hurt?â difficult, as more than one area is usually involved.

Secondary brain injury occurs as a result of the body’s inflammatory response to the primary injury. Extra fluid and nutrients accumulate in an attempt to heal the injury. In other areas of the body, this is a good and expected result that helps the body heal. However, brain inflammation can be dangerous because the rigid skull limits the space available for the extra fluid and nutrients. Brain swelling increases pressure within the head, which causes injury to parts of the brain that were not initially injured. The swelling happens gradually and can occur up to 5 days after the injury.

What Is A Traumatic Brain Injury

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TBI is an injury to the brain caused by a blow or jolt to the head from blunt or penetrating trauma. The injury that occurs at the moment of impact is known as the primary injury. Primary injuries can involve a specific lobe of the brain or can involve the entire brain. Sometimes the skull may be fractured, but not always. During the impact of an accident, the brain crashes back and forth inside the skull causing bruising, bleeding, and tearing of nerve fibers . Immediately after the accident the person may be confused, not remember what happened, have blurry vision and dizziness, or lose consciousness. At first the person may appear fine, but their condition can decline rapidly. After the initial impact occurs, the brain undergoes a delayed trauma â it swells â pushing itself against the skull and reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood. This is called secondary injury, which is often more damaging than the primary injury.

Traumatic brain injuries are classified according to the severity and mechanism of injury:

  • Mild: person is awake eyes open. Symptoms can include confusion, disorientation, memory loss, headache, and brief loss of consciousness.
  • Moderate: person is lethargic eyes open to stimulation. Loss of consciousness lasting 20 minutes to 6 hours. Some brain swelling or bleeding causing sleepiness, but still arousable.
  • Severe: person is unconscious eyes do not open, even with stimulation. Loss of consciousness lasting more than 6 hours.

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How Can I Prevent A Sports Concussion

Start With the Right Equipment

Everyone should wear properly fitting, sport-appropriate headgear and safety equipment when playing contact sports or biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, snowboarding, or skiing. You can’t prevent every concussion. But helmets, mouthguards, and other safety gear can reduce the risk of a brain injury.

Play it Safe

Headgear is your first line of defense. But you can still get a concussion because helmets don’t stop injury from happening on the inside. If you hit your head, your brain can still bang against your skull, even if you’re wearing a helmet.

Don’t take chances because you think your headgear protects you. This is one reason why there are rules in sports. Learning the right technique and developing the skill to avoid dangerous plays can make all kinds of injuries less likely to happen.


How Is Whiplash Which Sometimes Happens Along With Concussion Treated

Ongoing neck pain is a common complaint in both auto accidents and concussions. The head is bent back and forth on the cervical spine, which results in neck muscle injury and irritation. Useful treatments for whiplash include:

  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen , aspirin, or naproxen .
  • Learning proper head/neck posture, especially when working on the computer or watching television.
  • Physical therapy with a PT trained in either concussion or cervical spine.
  • Massage.
  • Temporarily keeping the neck still by using a soft foam neck brace .
  • Applying ice and/or heat .
  • Injections of steroids and lidocaine into the nerve at the base of the skull to relieve pain.

Your healthcare provider can give you more specific information on these treatments or where to turn for more help.

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Are You At Risk Of A Mild Tbi

Recent research and the developing diagnostics technology show us that it might not be a niche problem at all. The incidents of concussion due to sports-related injuries grab the headlines often, which makes us believe that they are part of the sportsperson lifestyle. However, regular office goers, students, part-time workers, stay-at-home parents, children and the elderly can experience concussions too. Mild TBI can be a result of a sudden slip-and-fall, a sharp blow to the head from a stray object or a severe impact to the head resulting from banging ones head onto the edge of furniture. Even automobile accidents can result in concussions. In fact, more than 50% of car crash victims present with signs of mild TBI upon further examination that EMTs may dismiss as shell shock or PTSD.

The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program

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Rehabilitation of the patient with a brain injury begins during the acute treatment phase. As the patient’s condition improves, a more extensive rehabilitation program is often begun. The success of rehabilitation depends on many variables, including the following:

  • Nature and severity of the brain injury

  • Type and degree of any resulting impairments and disabilities

  • Overall health of the patient

  • Family support

It is important to focus on maximizing the patient’s capabilities at home and in the community. Positive reinforcement helps recovery by improving self-esteem and promoting independence.

The goal of brain injury rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life physically, emotionally, and socially.

Areas covered in brain injury rehabilitation programs may include:

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How Concussion Patients Go Forward

A follow-up visit with a doctor should take place about a week after the first visit to ensure the recovery is on track. By this time, a young patient ought to be able to handle some schoolwork and mental activity which is our No. 1 priority, Lorincz says.

Avoiding a premature return to sports is also key, because theres a higher risk of brain injury if another hit occurs before a concussion heals. All 50 states enforce Return to Play laws that typically mandate specific hiatus periods, medical clearance and informed consent before an athlete can compete again.

Recovery times vary by age. Most people get better within 14 days, says Lorincz, but about one-third of concussion cases may take three weeks or longer to recover.

Symptoms Of A Concussion

As a result of the violent impact thats occurred, numerous symptoms can arise. They include

  • Headaches
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea

The more violent the impact, the more axons are that are likely to tear, and the more severe symptoms will be. The severity of your symptoms allows doctors to grade your concussion on a scale of one to three. Grade One concussions are considered to be the mildest, while Grade Three concussions are deemed to be the most severe.

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