Concussions Are More Serious Than You Think
A concussion is more than an injury; it is a silent killer. To understand just how serious, read these alarming facts:
- Every year, an estimated 300,000 sport-related concussions occur annually to high school athletes in the United States.
- High school football players suffer nearly one quarter of those injuries.
- More than 60 percent of all teenage athletes will have experienced some type of concussive injury during high school. Thousands more cases go unreported.
- For young people ages 15 to 24, concussion is second only to motor vehicle crashes when it comes to traumatic brain injury.
- The estimated number of adolescents 14 to 19 years old seen in emergency rooms for concussions rose from about 7,000 in 1997 to nearly 23,000 in 2007.
- 2nd Impact Syndrome sufferers (adolescents who received a 2nd blow to the head before the symptoms of the 1st blow has resolved itself) have a 95% morbidity rate and a 65-70% mortality rate. This is a problem that only happens to adolescents with a developing brain, like high school and younger kids.
- 2nd Impact Syndrome can happen very quickly, and can result even from a minor bump, due to loss of auto-regulation of the brain’s blood supply which caused massive swelling.
Definition of a Concussion
Although there is no one, established definition for concussion, it is commonly referred to as a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the function of the brain.
Also called a mild traumatic brain injury, a concussion can come as a result of a car crash, sports injury, when the head and upper body are violently shaken, or even from what appears to be a minor fall. Because there is no one clear cut definition, test or series of symptoms it makes knowing if a concussion is serious or not impossible for the average parent or person.
When to Seek Treatment
In the award-winning book,Concussion Crisis, by journalists Linda Carroll and David Rosner they examine the need for an urgent wake-up call to every family for treating a concussion as the traumatic brain injury it is.
One book review comments that, ”This is the book that brings the explosive but largely unseen epidemic of concussions out of the shadows. It puts a human face on a pressing public health crisis through poignant stories of athletes (from the peewees to the pros) and of others whose lives have been forever changed by jolts to the head and brain.”
Symptoms and recovery times for concussions can vary greatly. The best advice whether to seek treatment or not is to, err on the side of caution and get prompt medical attention if in doubt.
Many people who have sustained a concussion may have a headache or dizziness for a day or two and then recovery fully. However, about five percent of people who received a concussion can develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life threatening if not promptly diagnosed.
For any of the following symptoms, it’s critical to go immediately to a hospital or emergency room:
- Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
- Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
- Feeling dazed or confused
- Swelling of the scalp
- Abnormal behavior
Brain injuries are common, but the diagnosis for a concussion is not so clear cut. There is no single, objective measure to determine if someone has had a concussion. To make a diagnosis, professionals look at many variables that might indicate trauma, from changes in balance to memory lapses and dizziness.
Testing for a Concussion
Depending on your symptoms, your age, and the severity of the injury, the emergency department physicians may order some tests, including a neurological test, CT scan, or MRI scan. To make matters even more confusing, sometimes a MRI or CT scan can come back with a false negative result. It doesn’t mean there is no injury, just that the damage is not visible on the scans.
The sooner someone is diagnosed, the better the chances for a good recovery.