Monday, January 11, 2016

Concussion: Why It Matters

There's been plenty of attention to football players ramming each other so hard that they cause concussions. What is a concussion?
Concussion, known also as a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or MTBI, occurs when someone is struck in the head. This can happen from being purposely rammed into, such as a football player smashing into anther player to stop him, in the 'sport' of boxing where the goal is to strike each other until someone passes out, or from a car accident where someone's head hits a windshield or the side of the car; if someone is hit in the head in a fight or while being abused; or being shaken severely.


What happens in a MTBI?
Your brain is sort of the consistency of gel. It's protected by fluid all around, called Cerebrospinal fluid, and then topped off with your skull. Normally it's just chilling, happy to be suspended and protected by the fluid and skull. But, if you hit your head somehow or are shaken hard enough, the brain will be slammed against the cerebral spinal fluid towards your skull. This hurts your brain. Your brain is the operating system of your body. The damage affects the brain throughout and not only at the point of impact.
Basically, it looks like this:

It may not look like a big deal, and typically there isn't a cut or loss of blood and may not be a skull fracture, but there can be internal bleeding on the brain. Here are injuries associated with MTBI:
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of motor coordination (for example, using your hands for everyday activities)
  • Light sensitivity (you may suddenly hate bright lights such as the sun)
  • You may see bright lights that aren't really there
  • Vision may be blurred
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Feeling disoriented (The classic Where Am I?)
  • Can't pay attention
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory issues
  • Seizures
  • It can affect your senses of taste and smell
Why is that? Because it's your brain. The brain is in charge of all these things.

                                           MRI of brain with and without concussion
Usually with the first concussion, providing it is fairly mild, the symptoms will ease off after a few days and be much better within about a month. Rest and common sense help the brain heal. However, not knowing exactly how much the brain was hurt, symptoms can linger for longer, and possibly for years. Therefore, imagine the cumulative damage over several concussions. Medical professionals think repeated Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can lead to neurological conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, depression, and dementia.

Here are some statistics about football players and MTBI. Keep in mind that not every team reports each instance, whether on purpose or because they don't realize how often it's happened: Imagine how hard these players are hitting each other in order to cause concussion even with the use of helmets. Now imagine people who begin playing football at a young age and how many times they're going to potentially have head injuries. It's a little scary.

It isn't only in football we see concussion or MTBI. Any time a sport or activity calls for a helmet, it's because of the potential for a head injury. if it's not a contact sport, there is always a possibility you could fall or be hit by something or someone else by accident.
  • Riding bicycle
  • Playing hockey
  • Snowboarding
  • Motorcycling
  • Snowmobiling
  • Even playing baseball, there is a potential for being hit by a ball or colliding with someone

Here's an explanation of how a helmet works: It provides an extra layer of protection to help absorb the impact on your brain:

If you enjoy an activity that requires a helmet and has potential for head injury, please wear your helmet and try to avoid slamming into anyone or anything. Your brain will thank you.

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