“Thank God! It’s just a concussion”. For most of us, a concussion diagnosis after a hard fall or a bump on the head brings an immediate sense of relief. Nothing to worry about. A day or two, a few aspirin and all will be well. Fortunately, that reaction proves to be true most of the time. But this minor traumatic brain injury can become a serious health risk with potentially damaging consequences.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently suffered a concussion after a fall, her condition was inappropriately minimized. She was accused of using her injury as an excuse for not attending congressional hearings. But that “excuse” resulted in a 3 day hospital stay when a routine MRI found that a potentially dangerous blood clot had developed in a vein between her brain and her skull as a result of her initial injury.
The fact is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.8 million concussions occur in the United States every year; most of them related to sports and recreational activities. Concussion is the most common form of brain injury. The word concussion comes from the Latin word ‘concutere’, meaning “to shake violently”. A concussion is a jarring of the brain, which can be caused by a bump, fall or a sudden, violent movement; any large movement of the brain in any direction.
Symptoms of concussion may include headache, confusion, drowsiness, vision changes, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech and a loss of memory of the events prior to the injury occurring. Symptoms which require emergency medical care may include loss of consciousness, muscle weakness on one or both sides of the body, difficulty walking, seizures and lasting confusion. Children who have had a experienced a fall or bump on the head need to be watched particularly carefully and evaluated by a healthcare professional whether experiencing symptoms or not.
The treatment for, and recovery from a concussion can take some time; from a few days, to weeks or months. Again, children must be watched closely during their recovery period to make certain that their healing process is progressing without mishap. Everyone recovering from a concussion may experience some difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability and dizziness. Your healthcare professional needs to be the decision maker regarding the complete return to normal activity.
With our active lifestyles, injuries of this type can’t be completely prevented. However, some simple steps can minimize the risks at any age. Always use recommended safety gear, such as a properly fitting helmet or hard hat and follow all sport specific safety recommendations when biking, skiing, skating or motorcycling; any vigorous sporting activity where the chances of taking a hard fall exist. Always live fully, with a dollop of common sense.