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Concussion: The Facts

We have all heard of a concussion, but what exactly is it?

The medical term for concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It is the most common but least serious type of brain injury. The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a shock absorber and protects the brain and spinal cord from light trauma. More severe impacts, or the forces associated with rapid acceleration, may not be absorbed by this shock-absorbing fluid. Concussions occur when external forces acting on the head are transferred to the brain. Such forces can occur when the head is struck by an object or surface, or when the torso rapidly changes position and force is transmitted to the head. After a period of minutes to days after a concussion, the brain is especially vulnerable to changes in intracranial pressure, blood flow, and anoxia. Rapid movement causes brain tissue to change shape, which can stretch and damage brain cells. This damage also causes chemical and metabolic changes within the brain cells, making it more difficult for cells to function and communicate. Concussions are frequently associated with sports such as rugby and boxing.

There is no objective test for diagnosing a concussion, it does not appear on a brain scan such as a CT or MRI. A doctor would have to make their diagnosis on symptoms alone. Common signs and symptoms of a concussion include loss of consciousness, dizziness, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Treating a concussion requires a lot of rest, your brain has been through a lot so you don’t want to over-exert it before it is ready. Take painkillers such as paracetamol if you got a bad bump. Always seek medical advice if you think you have sustained a concussion and listen to what they say. If the injury is sports related you will have to refrain from the sport for a number of weeks to give your brain time to recover and to prevent a second concussion from happening too close to the first incident.

Concussions are considered to be an epidemic in some parts of the world, such as the United States.

Concussions can be very serious, with up to 90% succumbing to a second concussion within ten days of their first diagnosis. Multiple bouts of concussion have been linked with dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy which is a progressive brain condition. These are two very serious illnesses linked with concussions. So take care of yourself and your head - you can’t replace it!

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