There are mild concussions and severe concussions but all concussions potentially have serious consequences.
A concussion may be caused by a blow to the head, face, neck, or elsewhere on the body that jars the head and causes a sudden shaking of the brain inside the skull. The damage to the brain in a concussion is not visible by the commonly-used imaging techniques like X-rays, CT, or MRI scans.
While only about 1 in 10 patients with a concussion will have had a loss of consciousness associated with their injury, many more will not remember events immediately prior to or following the injury (amnesia).
The true incidence of concussions is not known because concussions are under-reported. This may be due to the victim, family, or friends not knowing the symptoms of a concussion or, in the case of athletes, choosing not to report symptoms because they prefer to “tough it out” for fear of losing playing time.
Why is it important to know if someone has had a concussion?
Recognition of, and a proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death. There is evidence that recovery is more prolonged when an athlete is allowed to continue playing with a concussion. Second Impact Syndrome is a condition of sudden, catastrophic brain swelling that develops when a second injury occurs less than 2-3 weeks after a first injury has not completely healed. Massachusetts law states that a student athlete shall not return to play the same day a concussion is suspected to have occurred. Prevention of re-injury before complete recovery is a priority in concussion management.
Again, a concussion is often invisible to others; it is a very “personal” injury. Family members can usually detect subtle behavioral, temperament, or cognitive differences, but to friends and casual acquaintances the concussed student’s credibility may be challenged because he/she may appear normal while they most certainly do not feel normal. This may increase the patient’s feeling of social isolation. Despite appearances, concussions can cause physical symptoms and problems with brain function that may persist for weeks, months, or years. Symptoms like headache, fatigue, light and motion sensitivity, dizziness, inattentiveness, memory, mood disturbances, and sleep disruption can profoundly impact a student’s academic and social life.