Every concussion is a brain injury, and any level of concussion can be a serious brain health and neurological event.
A concussion is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Some mTBIs thankfully are minor requiring little recovery time. However, for some unfortunate people, there is nothing mild about it. Concussion recovery times can vary greatly. Approximately 80 percent of concussions resolve over 7 to 14 days, with 10 days being the average. Some people develop a condition called post-concussive syndrome, which is where they experience prolonged symptoms, such as persistent pain, mood and personality changes, and difficulty with memory, cognition, and other mental or physical abilities.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Causes a Concussion?
Most people are surprised to learn that it doesn’t take much to get a concussion, and you don’t have to lose consciousness. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to hit your head. Any impact that causes the brain inside your skull to vigorously shake, such as a blow to the chest, can cause a concussion.
According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, concussions are “caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.” This rapid movement causes the brain to slam into the sides of the skull, stretching and damaging brain cells. The damage can impair various brain functions and produce some serious health risks, depending on how severe it is.
Falls are the most common cause of concussions overall, and they disproportionately affect children and older adults. Sports, car accidents, and assaults are also common causes.
What Are Concussion Symptoms?
Immediately following a concussion, many people experience headaches, short-term memory loss, and confusion. However, a loss of consciousness or memory is not required for a concussion to have occurred. Concussions are common in young children, even toddlers without verbal skills. So, parents need to be aware of the immediate signs of a concussion, including:
- Excessive fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Delayed response to questions
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Loss of balance
- Excessive crying
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Thankfully, long-term effects are relatively rare, but if it happens to you, they can have a devastating impact on your quality of life and relationships. Some long-term symptoms a person might experience are:
- Trouble concentrating and paying attention
- Memory problems
- Personality changes
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression and other new mental health issues
- Disorders of smell and taste
- Brain fog
While a first concussion can cause problems, the second one can cause permanent long-term brain damage. Science has shown that repeated concussions over an extended time can result in cumulative, permanent, neurological and cognitive deficits.