Concussion: What You Need to Know

Concussion

Concussion is a major health concern worldwide. It is estimated that 38 million children and adolescents participate in sports in the United States. Another 170 million adults participate in activities which include sport. An estimated 1.6 million-3.8 million cases of concussion occur per year, according to the CDC. 

You may be surprised to know that there is no agreed upon universal definition of concussion. Concussion occupies the mild end of the traumatic brain injury spectrum, which accounts for 75 percent of traumatic brain injury (TBI). In fact, mild TBI and concussion terms are often used in medical literature interchangeably.

Concussion is a clinical syndrome of temporary neurologic dysfunction affecting the brain, which is induced by traumatic biomechanical forces. A concussion can be caused by a direct blow to the head or elsewhere to the body with the traumatic force being transferred to the head. Concussion does not necessarily involve a loss of consciousness, which only occurs in up to 10 percent of reported concussions. 

Typically, concussion results in a rapid onset of neurologic impairment that initially affects memory and orientation. The clinical symptoms of concussion traditionally have been understood to be functional in nature caused by changes in the brain, as opposed to visual structural or anatomic changes. Thus, no structural abnormality is seen on standard neuroimaging. The clinical symptoms occur in a graded fashion and resolve in a sequential fashion. 

The initial step in managing a concussion is recognizing the brain injury and removing the injured person from the activity. Athletes with a history of concussion have a 2-5 times greater risk for repeated concussion. Repeated concussion may be a risk factor for slower recovery, as well as for recurrent concussion due to lesser impact. Also, high school and college athletes who have sustained three or more concussions are at risk for lengthier recovery times.

Signs and symptoms of acute concussion 

Physical

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Visual problems
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Numbness/tingling

Cognitive

  • Feeling mentally foggy
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering

Emotional

  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • More emotional
  • Nervous

Sleep

  • Drowsiness
  • Sleeping less than usual
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Trouble falling asleep

Because there is no definitive treatment, concussion is challenging to manage. Evaluation and management require clinical judgment and individualization of treatment, because symptoms are variable from patient to patient. Headache is the most common symptom following concussion, occurring in up to 94 percent of concussed athletes, as well as patients of all ages who sustain a mild TBI.

At SwedishAmerican, our Neuro & Headache Center offers the combined expertise of headache and neurosurgery experts to provide quality care for local athletes. We promote "brain defense" as a sports strategy focused on protecting and nurturing the developing brain.

If you have questions regarding concussions, or would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (779) 696-9512. Patients are given prompt appointments!

As Rockford's only certified headache specialist, Dr. Jeffry Royce has advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches and concussions.