The Repercussions of Concussions

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Published on February 25, 2015

The Repercussions of Concussions

By: Jamie Edwards, MDGoran Jankovic, DOErin O’Tool, MD; & Terry Young, PsyD

Concussions are a common injury among athletes of any age. If not monitored and treated appropriately, head injuries can lead to more serious symptoms and conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 300,000 sports-related, brain trauma occurs per year. The reported numbers continue to grow due to growing awareness and educational efforts, media spotlights and expansion of sports.

What is Concussion?

Concussion is a traumatic brain injury that impairs neurological function or changes normal brain activity. Although the skull protects the brain’s
vulnerable structure from trauma, its bones don’t absorb all of the forces of impact. The brain trauma induces nerve dysfunction, and as a result, neurotransmitters [the brain’s signals and energy] “fire” abnormally.

Signs & Symptoms

Immediate signs of concussions include but are not limited to:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory deficits

Other signs may appear shortly—even days after the event:

  • Persistent headache
  • Dizziness
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory dysfunction
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Easily fatigued
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances

Seek urgent evaluation by a health care provider if you suffer from any of the following after your injury:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Repetitive vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Event amnesia
  • Behavioral changes
  • Pupils that are not equal

Take Note of Symptoms!

It's important to create a list of post-trauma symptoms to report to a trainer or physician. The list and simple functional testing provided by a trainer or physician are critical in helping to diagnose the athlete's condition.

Typically, concussions improve over time without long-lasting effects. In the rare instance that symptoms last for weeks or months, Post-Concussion Syndrome is present. This condition creates an increased risk for repeat concussions.

The very serious Second Impact Syndrome happens when a second concussion occurs while symptoms from the original injury are still present. The brain is extremely vulnerable during the healing period. Any repeat trauma can result in serious side effects, and, rarely, even death.

Studies show that the safest way to return athletes to activity and decrease future complications is through a gradual recovery process. This “return-to-play” protocol protects athletes from Second Impact Syndrome and Post-Concussion Syndrome.

In complicated cases, a neuropsychologist may also provide follow-up assessments of cognitive function, memory, visuospatial function, intelligence and language.

Use Caution Ahead

Underlying conditions including depression, ADHD and learning disabilities can prolong symptoms or increase risk for Post-Concussion Syndrome. Caution and time must be employed to allow for a full recovery. Without these cautionary steps, athletes are at increased risk for more concussions.

Thanks to improved diagnosis and treatments, and the full support of the injured athlete, medical community, academic institutions and the patient’s care network, people can and do recover. Concussions commonly resolve in a few weeks on their own with no complications or long-term side effects.

Learn about concussion testing and screening options available through our Concussion Care Network.