Concussions are one of the most common types of brain injuries in the world. Cases are reported in the millions in the United States each year due to sports alone, and they appear to be an unavoidable phenomenon in full-contact sports like American football and fighting-based sports like boxing. Career athletes are especially concerned about recovery periods, but if improperly educated, those who have suffered a concussion may be persuaded to return to normal life sooner than they should. Worse still, there are many instances where someone will sustain such an injury and not even know it, attempting to continue on thinking that they’re just momentarily dazed.
When it comes to any brain injury, knowing what you’re dealing with can be the difference between life and death. We at AICA Marietta specialize in concussion and neck pain treatment, that’s why we want you to know what a concussion looks like before you find yourself flat on your back with one.
Concussions: a General Overview
First, let’s define what a concussion is. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a body blow that causes the head and brain to rapidly swing back and forth. As a result of this sudden movement, the brain might bounce about or twist in the skull, causing chemical changes in the brain as well as straining and damaging brain cells. You many experience headaches and sleeping or memory problems as symptoms of brain injuries from car accidents, for example.
These brain injuries are often classed as “minor” due to the fact that they’re rarely life-threatening, but this doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. After a suspected concussion, if an athlete does not remove themselves from play and receive treatment, their brain is vulnerable to repetitive head traumas and does not have a chance to heal, ultimately leading to extended recovery times. This can potentially result in long-term neurological impairment, depression, and, in extreme situations, death.
A concussion isn’t always accompanied by a moment of unconsciousness, and determining the likelihood of a concussion requires careful observation of the subject, as they will be too disoriented to self-report symptoms. With that in mind, there are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for. Specifically, an overwhelming sensation of perplexity. A person who has suffered a concussion will most likely appear confused and slow to respond to other people’s interactions. Because of the dizziness, their motor skills will be hindered, resulting in an increase in clumsiness. The most worrying symptom is a feeling of forgetting. They may be unable to recall events that occurred previous to or immediately after the concussion. Headaches, nausea, and visual distortions are all likely physical signs.
It’s incredibly important that these symptoms are taught and recognized across multiple population groups, including those who are most likely to receive such injuries, such as athletes and those in the military. Research has shown that, despite the characteristic brain fog of a concussion, informed patients are far more likely to self-report. Other factors that can cause patients to correctly identify and report their symptoms include personal and group ethics, reporting requirements, and knowledge of long-term consequences.
Recovery Times and Stages
A concussion can heal in 7-10 days with proper medical care, while some cases can take up to a month. Children and adolescents, on the other hand, will most likely require more time to recuperate. Pre-existing conditions, such as a history of headaches, might also contribute to extended recovery times. It’s impossible to put off your healing time without consequence. Because a concussion is a brain injury, whether mild or severe, it will have an impact on your entire life until it heals, and any delays in the healing process may result in irreversible brain damage.
When discussing any injury with your doctor—and especially when that injury falls under the category of “brain damage”—you should always heed their advice and take the treatment path that’s right for you and your specific case. However, since concussions are so common, it’s not impossible to guess what your recovery might look like.
You should minimize all mental and physical activities for the first few days after a concussion. Bed rest is critical, but so is avoiding stressful situations, as this might harm your brain in this state. Most importantly, you should get plenty of good sleep, as sleep plays an important role in overall brain health. Napping is also encouraged throughout the day to supplement the healing process.
Think of your brain in this state as a damaged computer. Under normal circumstances, maybe it would be able to process every single stressor of your everyday life. However, when your brain is injured, the processing power is cut dramatically. This means that any major stressors may overload it and cause intense psychological distress, headaches, and even an exacerbated concussion.
You can gradually reintroduce light physical and mental activities into your schedule as your recovery advances. There should be a strong focus on the word “light,” as these activities must pose as little danger of brain damage as possible and should not include any intense exertion. Mentally, you can also try returning to a normal level of cognitive activity, perhaps doing small brain exercises such as jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles. If you’re having trouble keeping up mentally or physically with your own recovery, reduce your workload until you’re ready.
It’s also been shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy can speed up recovery times and even help eliminate symptoms in those who have prolonged cases. This is likely because it helps the patients involved to process the event better and develop better care habits for the injury. Light aerobic exercise is also often used alongside CBT, albeit under the supervision of a professional.
You’re almost ready to resume your normal routine, but vigorous exercise should only be done with a doctor’s permission. If your concussion symptoms flare up or worsen, you should reduce your activity and enter a more intensive recovery cycle to avoid re-injury. You can resume your normal activities once your symptoms have faded completely. From now on though, you will have to be wary of further brain damage, as your brain will be more likely to sustain more severe injuries from here on out.
Repeat concussions are a well-known phenomenon, and those who suffer from too many concussions—especially in a short time span—can develop a myriad of issues. These issues can run the gambit from a decline in sleep quality to severe headaches, all the way up to cognitive dysfunction. Now more than ever, you will need to be very careful in order to protect your head.
The Consequences of a Poor Recovery
As previously indicated, failing to treat a concussion properly can have serious implications. A concussion cannot be “toughed out,” and adequate rest and recovery are critical to lowering your risk of additional complications. Unfortunately, due to a lack of reporting, investigation, and knowledge, the long-term repercussions of concussions are still unclear, but we do know that concussion symptoms can occasionally last permanently. Post-concussion syndrome includes fatigue, irritability, anxiety, blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, and sensitivity to noise and light, among other symptoms. These symptoms can be debilitating, interfering with all aspects of a person’s quality of life.
Second hit syndrome, which happens when a patient sustains another brain injury while recovering from a concussion, is an extremely rare but very real possibility. A small head injury can result in major brain swelling, which can quickly kill a patient. Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old whose tragic death sparked new youth sports legislation in Canada regarding concussion awareness and intervention, was one regrettable event that attracted national attention in recent years.
Chiropractic may not be able to help with the initial concussion, but it can help with what follows. If you’ve suffered a concussion and need neck pain treatment, consider contacting us today so we can clear your mind.