Concussion is the momentary loss of mental function as a result of an injury to the brain following a blow to the head. In some cases, the sufferer does not lose consciousness.
Anyone suffering a blow to the head can get concussion. The chances of getting one are higher if you do a lot of contact sports or are involved in a traffic accident or become the victim of an assault. Concussion occurs when the impact causes a sudden disruption to a part of the brain known as the reticular activating system (RAS).
The RAS can be found in the middle part of the brain and is used to regulate yout sense of awareness and consciousness. During a severe head injury, the brain is temporarily moved out of its normal positions, causing disruption to the electrical signals betwen brain cells.
Common symptoms include:
Headaches, which may be severe and persistent
- Vision disturbance
- Poor balance
- Poor concentration
- Confusion, such as being unaware of your surroundings
Difficulties with memory and memory loss are also common and can occur in one of two forms:
- retrograde amnesia – where you are unable to remember events that occurred before the concussion happened (this usually only affects the minutes immediately leading up to the concussion).
- anterograde amnesia – where you are unable to remember any new information or events after the concussion happened.
The best treatment for concussion is rest and painkillers can be used to relieve headaches. Hospital admission is sometimes necessary.
Call for emergency medical advice if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Remaining unconscious after the initial injury
- Trouble staying awake or still being sleepy several hours after the injury
- Problems understanding what people say
- Having a seizure
- Having difficulty speaking (slurred speech)
- Prolonged vision problems, such as double vision
- Reading or writing problems
- Difficulty balancing or walking
- Loss of power in part of the body, such as weakness in an arm or leg
- Complete memory loss
- Clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears (this could be cerebrospinal fluid, which normally surrounds the brain)
- A black eye, with no other damage around the eye
- Bleeding from one or both ears
- Sudden deafness
If you are involved in a lot of contact sports, you can minimize the risk of concussion by wearing protective headgear. Those who are prone to falling a lot due to other medical conditions should make an effort to make their home environment as safe as possible – by having carpets instead of hard floor, for example. Always wear a seatbelt when travelling in a car and an appropriate helmet when cycling or riding a motorbike.
Click here to read about how actress Nathalie Mendoza suffered concussion on the set of Spider-Man Broadway and how head injuries have been linked to Lou Gherig’s disease.