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Diseases & Conditions

Concussion

ConcussionCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Concussion?

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. It is also called mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor head trauma.

Causes of Mild Head Injury

A concussion is caused by some type of trauma to the head. It can be caused by a car accident, a fall or being struck by something. When the blow is severe enough this causes the brain to actually shake inside the head. The brain does have a fluid surrounding it that acts like a soft cushion. But when the brain is shaken this fluid is not sufficient to prevent the brain from smashing against the skull. In addition, this shaking prevents the brain from reacting in a normal fashion. In some situations concussions can major physical issues.

Medications for Minor Head Trauma

The most common medications prescribed for a concussion are mostly to relieve pain. These medications include acetaminophen such as Tylenol or ibuprofen found in the over the counter medications of Advil and Motrin. A stronger pain medication may also be prescribed if needed.

Prevention of a Mild Brain Injury

The best way to prevent a concussion is to stay safe. Always wear a helmet when taking part in any high risk sport like biking, skiing, rollerblading or skateboarding. Be sure to wear a seat belt when driving and avoid talking on the phone or texting while behind the wheel. Make sure there are no dangers at home. Add light to dark spaces, fix any cracked or uneven surfaces and cover or add padding to sharp objects. This is especially true for children.

Risk Factors of MHI

Those who are at high risk for concussion usually have a very active lifestyle. Those who play contact sports such as football or hockey are more likely to get a concussion. Individuals who have dangerous jobs such as a construction worker or a boxer are more prone to concussions. In addition, individuals who choose not to wear the appropriate protective gear when taking part in a dangerous activity are more prone to a mild brain injury.

Symptoms of a Mild Head Injury

As might be expected, the most common sign of an MTBI is a headache. This headache can also be accompanied by dizziness, lost coordination, balance problems, vomiting and nausea. In addition the patients may be overly sensitive to light or can experience double or blurry vision. In addition the ears can ring and the individual may see bright flashes of light. In severe concussions the patient may suffer convulsions. In addition the person may act confused, seem disoriented or have trouble focusing. There can be a lack of consciousness and some amnesia may occur. Speech can be slurred or totally incoherent. The patient may also over emote and be cranky, weepy or unnaturally irritable.

Treatment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

In most circumstances a mild head injury is not treated and allowed to heal on its own. A doctor may simply prescribe rest and a return to regular routing in small increments. The patient will be instructed to avoid alcohol or any activities that could cause another head injury. If there is swelling on the skull a cold pack or pain medication may be prescribed. In sever circumstances where there may be brain swelling, surgery will be required. This involves removing a piece of the skull to allow the brain room to expand or swell. Without this injury, permanent brain damage will result.

Types of Mild Brain Injury

There are two types of concussions; simple and complex.

  • Simple Mild Traumatic Brain Injury-this type of concussion is relatively minor and the individual who suffered the head injury gets over the symptoms in 7 to 10 days.
  • Complex concussion-with this type of mild head injury the symptoms do not go away and thought processes can be affected. Individuals who suffer numerous concussions are included in this category.

There are also over 40 systems that are used to grade the severity of a concussion. The three that are most commonly used are the Cantu guidelines, Colorado Medical Society guidelines and American Academy of Neurology guidelines. Each grades a minor head trauma on a scale of 1 through III with I being the most mild injury and III more traumatic including loss of consciousness.