What causes a concussion?
Your brain is a soft organ surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by your bony, hard skull. Normally, the fluid around your brain acts like a cushion that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. But if your head or your body is hit hard, your brain can crash into your skull, or be jolted, literally causing it to move around in your head. This force can injure the brain, causing bruising, damage to the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. The result? Your brain doesn’t function normally. If you’ve suffered a concussion, vision may be disturbed, you may lose equilibrium, or you may fall unconscious. In short, the brain is confused.
There are many ways to get a concussion. Some common ways include fights, falls, playground injuries, car crashes, and bike accidents. Concussions can also happen while participating in any sport or activity such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skiing, or snowboarding.
However, concussions don’t always involve a loss of consciousness. Most people who have a concussion never pass out, but they may describe seeing all white, black, or stars. You can even have a concussion and not realize it.
Concussion Myths and What to Avoid
- Myth: You have to have loss of consciousness to have sustained a concussion.
Reality: Studies show that less than 10% of concussions result in loss of consciousness.
- Myth: Concussions are only a result of a direct blow to the head.
Reality: A concussion can be sustained by a sudden, violent movement of the head caused by an unexpected external force to the body.
- Myth: You need to wake someone with a concussion every 20 minutes.
Reality: You only need to check on a concussed person periodically.
- Myth: You need to check pupils with a flashlight to see if they are dilated or uneven.
Reality: Any response to the pupils is indicative of a much more serious brain injury. Typically, this is only present when the injured individual is unconscious. Therefore, if the athlete is coherently speaking to you, there is no need to check their pupils.
What to avoid and do when a concussion is suspected: (Things that should be considered so recovery is not delayed.)
- An athlete should avoid performing activities that increase their symptoms.
- Avoid loud noises (music, TV, band practices, or listening to an iPod).
- Limit texting, reading, video games, typing, or internet use. All of these activities cause an increase in cognitive function which puts a strain on the brain.
- Avoid any over-the-counter medications (Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Aleve) that may mask any symptoms, unless advised otherwise by a physician.
- If, for a student, an upcoming deadline or test necessitates studying, the school nurse, athletic director, administrator, and/or guidance counsellor should be contacted and made aware that a concussion is suspected. Postponement of any quizzes or exams may be required.
- Initially, reduced cognitive activity (i.e. work or school) may be appropriate. However, there is no research that supports prolonged removal from work or school.
If you think you have a concussion, seek medical treatment immediately. You may also call ONE80 Health at 647.560.4495 for more information.