Anyone can suffer a concussion, regardless of how old or young they are. While we’re familiar with the medical term, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding this brain injury. Below you’ll find more information about concussions, their symptoms, and other related topics.
One note, if you suffered a concussion due to someone else’s recklessness or negligence, you should consult with a brain injury lawyer right away. Here in California, you can sue those responsible for your concussion injury. Doing so can help you recover both financially and emotionally.
What is the Medical Definition of a Concussion?
A concussion is an injury caused by a blow to or violent shaking of the head, neck, or upper body. For example, if someone suffers whiplash in a car accident, that is, a violent back and forth shaking of the head and neck, which can cause a concussion. This movement disrupts normal brain function. Fortunately, the majority of those who suffer a concussion make a full recovery.
Is a Concussion the Same as a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Yes, a concussion is medically classified as a mild traumatic brain injury. They are considered mild because generally speaking, they aren’t:
- Don’t require surgery
- The patient usually doesn’t suffer a loss of consciousness. If they do, it’s usually for just a few seconds.
Concussions are the most common traumatic brain injury doctors treat.
What Happens to the Brain During a Concussion?
When a concussion occurs, the brain moves inside the head and hits the wall of the skull. It can be once or multiple times. This damages neurons and/or brain cells. It can also cause bruising of the brain. This in turn changes a person’s brain chemistry.
What Are Common Causes of Concussions?
People often associate football players with concussions and rightly so. NFL, college, and high school players have a higher chance of suffering a concussion compared to most other sports. In recent years, growing awareness of the dangers of multiple concussions caused the NFL to institute rule changes to try and improve player safety. They also devised a concussion protocol in 2011. While American football and soccer are two of the leading causes of concussions, they aren’t the only ones:
- Falls, which are the leading cause of serious injuries and deaths for the elderly and small children.
- Traffic accidents, whether the victim was in a motor vehicle, motorcycle, on a bicycle, or walking.
- Contact sports, such as American football, rugby, and soccer.
- Acts of violence such as being beaten, struck on the head with an object, or shot in the head
- Workplace accidents, particularly on construction worksites
Construction workers are also at greater risk of suffering a concussion given that they frequently work at great heights and around heavy machinery.
Concussions are more common than you might think. As an example, The Journal of the American Medical Association, also known as JAMA reported that 19.5% of adolescents in the U.S. reported sustaining at least one concussion in their lifetime.
The CDC’s most recent findings include:
- There were over 223,000 hospitalizations for TBIs, including for concussions in 2018.
- For 2019, there were 60,611 deaths due to TBIs. This averages out to 166 deaths due to TBIs every day.
- Seniors over the age of 75 had the highest percentage of hospitalizations and deaths for TBIs.
- Men were twice as likely to be hospitalized and three times as likely to die from a TBI as females
- There were 16,480 hospitalizations for TBIs in children under the age of 17. Among the same age group, 2,476 TBIs resulted in deaths in 2019.
- The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) found that half or 5 out of 10 concussions go unreported. The majority of the concussions they treat were to football players and women’s soccer players.
What Are the Most Common Concussion Symptoms?
Concussion symptoms usually appear right away. Others can take a few hours or even a day or two to manifest. The location of the concussion can also determine a person’s symptoms because different parts of the brain control different functions. Also, a concussion to the back of the head usually takes longer to recover from.
Most concussion victims will experience a headache right away. Other common symptoms are:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blurred vision
- A constant feeling of fatigue and drowsiness
- Being more sensitive to light and loud noises
- Ringing of the ears
- A change in personality, such as becoming easily agitated or anxious
- Memory loss
- Having trouble concentrating
- In some instances, a loss of consciousness
If the blow to or shaking of the head was severe, there can be more serious symptoms:
- Losing consciousness for over a minute
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- Slurred speech
- Fainting and/or not being able to wake up
- Not recognizing loved ones
- Bleeding from the ears
- Bleeding in the brain
Some head injuries, such as those that only causes headaches, can be minor. However, an intracranial hematoma, which is bleeding in the brain, is potentially life-threatening. It usually requires immediate treatment, which might include surgery to remove the blood. Bleeding in the brain is most common in patients who have been in car accidents or who have fallen.
No matter the symptoms, an accident victim should receive immediate medical attention for any blow or violent shaking of the head.
How Are Concussions Diagnosed?
A doctor will evaluate the patient for symptoms of a concussion, however, not all symptoms may be immediately apparent. They will perform a neurological exam. This includes checking a person’s vision, balance, coordination, reflexes, hearing, strength, and sense of touch. For more serious concussions, CT and/or MRI scans may be needed.
Cognitive tests – The patient will be given cognitive tests to evaluate their ability to process information and react to it. This can mean questions that evaluate a patient’s memory, concentration, and ability to respond to questions correctly. These tests can be verbal and written.
Brain scans – CT and MRI scans aren’t usually used to evaluate a concussion since they can’t pick up most of the signs of this type of traumatic brain injury. But patients with more severe symptoms such as vomiting or intense headaches may need one. This is done to see if they have any bleeding or swelling of the brain. CT scans take cross-section images of the brain and skull via a series of X-rays of the patient’s head. CT scans also emit radiation, so they are seldom given to children. One of the few exceptions is if the child has a possible skull fracture.
If symptoms continue beyond the first 48 hours or if they worsen, a doctor may order an MRI scan for the patient. An MRI helps identify changes to the brain including complications that can arise. They are not generally used to evaluate a person who has just suffered a concussion.
Observation – This is just as important as any imaging scans or cognitive tests. If the concussion is serious enough, the person may need to be hospitalized so they can be closely monitored. They could need inpatient rehabilitation as well. If they are allowed to go home, a loved one will be instructed to check on the patient for the first 24 hours to make sure their condition doesn’t worsen. This can mean waking the person at certain times to see if they can awaken properly.
Can Concussions Cause Long-Term Problems?
It’s estimated that only about 20% of those with concussions continue having problems after 6 weeks. Of course, no two people are the same. A concussion can impact each person differently. If the patient is elderly, has a pre-existing medical condition, or has previously suffered a concussion, they are more likely to have lingering health effects.
Recent studies have shown that even mild concussions can have long-lasting effects on the elderly. Patients over the age of 65 who suffered a concussion had a 22-26% greater chance of developing dementia over the next five years from the date of their accident injury.
How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Concussion?
The good news is most concussion symptoms go away after a few days or at most, a few months. In rare instances, symptoms can linger for a year or more, but this isn’t common. Also, the study of concussions has evolved greatly in the last twenty years. This new knowledge has helped improve how concussions are diagnosed and treated.
Rest is vital to recovering from a concussion. This is especially true during the first few days. Nonetheless, this does not mean complete darkness and being shut off from all outside stimuli. This can actually delay a concussion patient’s recovery. Activities that require a person to focus closely and concentrate should also be avoided. For example, they should limit:
- Looking at their cellphone screens, such as for texting
- Watching TV
- Playing video games
- Listening to anything at a high volume
After a few days, the person can begin to enjoy these activities again, but in moderation. If doing so worsens symptoms, they need to stop immediately.
If a concussed person is experiencing any pain, they are limited in the kind of pain medication they can take. Naproxen, Ibuprofen, and aspirin all thin the blood, which can cause dangerous bleeding. Acetaminophen is the only safe choice in this situation.
Concussion patients often lose their appetite and don’t feel thirsty. But it’s important that they eat, even if it’s in small amounts throughout the day. They should also be encouraged to drink enough water or juice. If not, concussion symptoms can worsen because the brain reacts negatively to low blood sugar and dehydration.
What Are the Dangers of Multiple Concussions?
Those who have suffered more than one concussion are at higher risk of:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lingering headaches
- Changes in personality
- Lack of impulse control
For younger patients, the risk of non-Alzheimer’s dementia increases after just one concussion. This risk increases dramatically if there are multiple concussions over a patient’s lifetime, regardless of their age.
Anyone who has had multiple concussions is also at risk of developing CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This degenerative brain disease has been found in athletes and members of the military. These individuals are also more likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease.
CTE can cause additional personality changes in a person starting in their 20s. Some of these are:
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Problems planning or sticking to plans
Eventually, CTE patients can experience short-term memory loss, confusion, and dementia. They may also experience sleep disorders.
Preventing a Concussion
You can prevent a concussion by taking the following precautions:
- Wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, bicycle, or participating in certain contact sports
- Always wear a seatbelt when riding or driving a motor vehicle
- Make sure there are handrails on all staircases in your home
- Ensure that your living space is well lit
- Put non-slip mats in your bathtub
Nothing is fool-proof but doing your part can help keep you and everyone in your household safe.
Dealing With the Emotional and Financial Costs of a Concussion
Any blow or violent shaking of the head should be considered a severe injury. Even though concussions are classified as mild, they are still considered traumatic brain injuries. Serious concussions can upend a person’s life and stop them from working, enjoying certain activities, and impair their ability to interact with friends and family.
If you or a loved one suffering a concussion due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you have the right to sue them. You can seek financial compensation for all of the damages you’ve experienced in a civil court. You don’t have to deal with medical bills and the emotional toll of a concussion alone.
The Dominguez Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm that has been serving Southern California for almost 35 years. In that time they have achieved record-setting settlements and verdicts for clients with concussions and other types of TBIs. For a free consultation, please call 800-818-1818.