Understanding Concussions: What You Need to Know

 

Concussions are a topic of increasing concern, particularly in sports and recreational activities where head injuries are prevalent.  The hot topic currently in the AFL is the new concussion protocol that has been released recently, where AFL/AFLW players will still have a minimum 12-day return to play protocol, and all other levels will have a minimum 21-day return to play protocol. Despite the heightened awareness surrounding concussions, there remains a need for a deeper understanding of what they entail.  In this blog post, we’ll delve into the definition, causes, symptoms, and potential consequences of concussions to shed light on this often misunderstood injury.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when a sudden jolt, blow, or bump to the head disrupts normal brain function.  Unlike other injuries, such as fractures or lacerations, concussions may not be visible on imaging studies like X-rays or CT scans.  Instead, they result from the rapid movement of the brain within the skull, leading to chemical changes and alterations in brain cell function.

Causes of Concussions

Concussions can occur in various settings, but they are most commonly associated with sports and recreational activities such as football, soccer, hockey, and cycling.  In sports, collisions, falls, and impacts with equipment or other players increase the risk of head injuries.  Outside of sports, motor vehicle accidents, falls, and physical altercations are common causes of concussions.

Symptoms of Concussions

Recognising the signs and symptoms of a concussion is crucial for prompt diagnosis and appropriate management.  Symptoms may appear immediately after the injury or develop gradually over time.  Common symptoms of concussions include:

  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Blurred vision or sensitivity to light and noise
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Mood changes, such as irritability or sadness
  • Neck & Jaw Pain

It’s important to note that symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and not all individuals will experience the same signs of a concussion.

Consequences of Concussions

While many concussions resolve with rest and proper management, they can have serious consequences if not treated appropriately.  Repeat concussions or sustained head injuries may increase the risk of long-term complications, including:

  • Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS): Some individuals experience persistent symptoms following a concussion, known as post-concussion syndrome.  Symptoms of PCS may include headaches, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, and mood changes, which can significantly impact daily functioning and quality of life.
  • Second Impact Syndrome (SIS): SIS occurs when an individual sustains a second concussion before fully recovering from the initial injury.  This rare but potentially life-threatening condition can lead to rapid brain swelling, herniation, and even death. Therefore, it’s crucial to allow adequate time for recovery and avoid returning to high-risk activities too soon.
  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE): CTE is a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head trauma, including concussions.  Over time, CTE can cause memory loss, cognitive decline, behavioural changes, and mood disorders.  While more commonly observed in athletes who participate in contact sports, CTE can also affect individuals in other high-risk professions or activities.

Concussions are complex injuries that require careful attention and management to ensure optimal recovery and prevent long-term complications.  By understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential consequences of concussions, individuals can take proactive measures to protect themselves and others from harm.  Whether on the playing field, in the workplace, or in everyday life, prioritising brain health and safety is essential for overall well-being and mental health.

For more info and advice on how we can help manage your concussion as part of a medical team, call (03 9824 8001) or book online with one of our Ace Certified Practitioners