A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury in both adults and children, and can occur when an athlete receives a traumatic force to the head or upper body that causes the brain to shake inside of the skull.
Concussions range from minor to major and are usually diagnosed based on symptoms and severity of head trauma. The injury is defined as a concussion when it causes a change in mental status such as loss of consciousness, amnesia, disorientation, confusion or mental fogginess.
Causes of Concussion
Causes of concussion can include any number of activities resulting in trauma to the head. Most often seen in children are sports injuries and bicycle accidents while adults are more likely to suffer from a concussion as the result of a car accident or fall.
Between 1.4 and 3.6 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year, with the majority happening at the high school level, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Because many mild concussions go undiagnosed and unreported, it is difficult to estimate the rate of concussion in any sport, but studies estimate that at least 10 to 20 percent of all athletes involved in contact sports have a concussion each season.
Risks of Concussion
In recent years, research has shown that even seemingly mild concussions can have serious consequences in young athletes if they are not properly managed. Loss of consciousness is not an indicator of injury severity. Traditional imaging techniques such as MRI and CT may be helpful in severe injury cases, but cannot identify subtle effects believed to occur in mild concussion.
Diagnosing a Concussion
Because no two concussions are exactly alike and symptoms are not always definite, the injury’s severity, effects and recovery are sometimes difficult to determine. The decision to allow the athlete to return to the game is not always straightforward,
although research has shown that until a concussed brain is completely healed, the brain is likely vulnerable to further injury. Thus, the critical importance of properly managing the injury.