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Concussions can occur during any sport or physical activity, and it can be challenging to identify and properly treat the injury. National estimates place anywhere from 1.6-3.8 million concussions occurring annually, with many of these going untreated. Research suggests approximately 7-13% of all athletes suffer a concussion during each year of sports participation. Half of all athletes sustaining a concussion may not inform anyone of their symptoms because they feel their injury is not severe enough to warrant reporting.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic head injury that alters the way the brain normally functions. Concussions may be caused by a direct blow to the head, face, or neck, or by a hit elsewhere on the body with an “impulsive” force transmitted to the head. Even what may be described as a “ding,” “getting your bell rung,” or what may seem to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be potentially serious. Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is one catastrophic and potentially fatal consequence of suffering a second concussion before a first injury has completely resolved.
Concussions do not typically result in structural changes in the brain, which explains why the injury may not show up on standard imaging such as CT or MRI scans. Rather, a concussion occurs on the cellular level, causing an “energy crisis” in the brain. This “energy crisis” causes a decrease in the amount of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow being produced in the brain following a concussion. Many of the common signs and symptoms of concussion are directly related to this “energy crisis”.
Because no two people are alike, each individual may experience a concussion differently. Concussions typically result in immediate neurological impairment; in some cases however, symptoms and signs may evolve over a number of hours to days.
Common symptoms of a concussion include:
- Blurry / Double Vision
- Light / Noise Sensitivity
- Difficulty with Balance
- Feeling “slowed down” or foggy
- Feeling tired or fatigued
- Problems with attention or memory
Common signs of a Concussion include:
- Appearing dazed, confused or disoriented
- Moving awkward or clumsily
- Loss of consciousness
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Increased irritability or emotional reactions
If a concussion is suspected
The Concussion Center at TOC recommends that any athlete experiencing symptoms of a concussion be immediately removed from play and evaluated by a medical professional trained in the diagnosis and management of concussion. Continuing to play through a concussion can lengthen recovery time and increase the risk of more serious brain injury.