What is a Concussion?
The definition of a concussion is always evolving and the latest definition published in the British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine from the 5th International Conference on concussion in Sports held in Berlin during October 2016 was:
Sport related concussion is a traumatic brain injury induced by biomechanical forces. Several common features that may be utilized in clinically defining the nature of a concussive head injury include:
• SRC may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an impulsive force transmitted to the head.
• SRC typically results in the rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurological function that resolves spontaneously. However, in some cases, signs and symptoms evolve over a number of minutes to hours.
• SRC may result in neuropathological changes, but the acute clinical signs and symptoms largely reflect a functional disturbance rather than a structural injury and, as such, no abnormality is seen on standard structural neuroimaging studies.
• SRC results in a range of clinical signs and symptoms that may or may not involve loss of consciousness. Resolution of the clinical and cognitive features typically follows a sequential course. However, in some cases symptoms may be prolonged.
The clinical signs and symptoms cannot be explained by drug, alcohol, or medication use, other injuries (such as cervical injuries, peripheral vestibular dysfunction, etc.) or other comorbidities (e.g., psychological factors or coexisting medical conditions).
How Can I Prevent a Concussion?
A concussion is best prevented by playing sports safely. Currently there is no protective equipment that will protect an athlete 100% against a concussion. However, making sure all athletic equipment fits correctly (in those required sports) is a great start. Sports need to be played safely and by the rules. Many rules were instituted to help protect players from injuries. In football specifically, there is a large movement to educate our athletes to tackle heads up, not to hit helmet to helmet, and not to strike a defenseless player. If these three simple points can be followed by our athletes and the rules are enforced by officials, then it may reduce the number of concussion and injuries a player sustains. Medical studies continue to be on going to determine how concussions can be further prevented.
When Should I See My Doctor?
If you suspect that you have a concussion then you should seek medical attention. It is best to see a doctor who manages concussions regularly if they are available. A doctor can make the diagnosis of a concussion and then help manage your symptoms and recovery. This will ensure that you return to sports/life safely and efficiently.
Written by, Dr. Casey Wagner