What is a Concussion?
The general definition of concussion means the act of forcefully shaking or jarring. A sports concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a shaking or jarring of the brain. A sports concussion can occur with a bump, blow or jolt to the head or the body which causes the brain to move within the skull. This movement causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull which can result in a change in brain cell chemistry and structural injury from cell stretching. This damage can result in a variety of signs and symptoms depending on the portion of the brain involved during a sports concussion.
Are concussions serious?
There is a dangerous trend of equating an injury with how visible the problem is. Of course, a broken bone or a torn ligament is going to create a scene, but this isn’t a failsafe way to judge an injury. When an athlete blows out their knee it becomes something that everyone can see, and the pain on the player’s face merely confirms what everyone else is already thinking: that injury is real, that injury is painful, that person is going to need medical attention.
Sports concussions are described as a “mild” traumatic brain injury because concussions are not usually life threatening. However, concussions are a brain injury and can lead to serious long-term consequences if not managed correctly by a qualified healthcare professional.
Head injuries aren’t typically as visible. When someone hits their head on TV, they may become unconscious for a moment or they may be able to stand up right away. They might look dazed or need a minute to regain their ability to think straight, but then they can walk off the field just fine. The injury doesn’t look as serious. And too often it isn’t treated as seriously.
A broken bone may be visible, but a concussion is in many ways far more serious of a problem. A brain injury requires immediate and ongoing care to ensure that the brain can regain optimal functionality. On television, injuries that turn out to be “just a concussion” are often anti-climactic events that the audience is led to believe will be over in days, if not hours. In real life, however, these traumatic brain injuries — which usually stem from a fall, severe shaking, a car accident or a direct blow to the head — can severely impact a person’s quality of life for several months.
A cold is typically more obvious than a chronic disease, but that doesn’t make the chronic disease any less difficult to deal with. In fact, the chronic disease is typically significantly more serious and complicated than the typical cold. Similarly, concussions are not something that can be overlooked. Following brain injury, whether as a result of a sport incident, a car accident, trip and fall, or other event, concussion therapy is absolutely necessary to ensure that there is no lasting damage following the trauma.
What are the symptoms of a concussion?
- Impaired vision, hearing, or smell
- Lack of coordination and balance
- Mood swings (ie. agitation, sadness, or lack of concentration)
- Pain in head, neck and/or shoulders
- Family and friends noticing “Something not right” about the concussed person
Sometimes a concussion may cause a loss of consciousness, but most of the concussion does not cause a loss of consciousness.
What are the emergency symptoms that may indicate a blood clot in the brain?
While rare, a concussion can cause a deadly blood clot to form on the brain, causing it to crowd against the skull. Seek emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms.
Short-term Physical Symptoms
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
- Distorted vision
- Overly tired
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Sleep disturbances/insomnia
- Slurred speech
- Staring (glassy eyes)
Short-term Cognitive Symptoms
- Memory loss
- Slowed thinking and communicating
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worsening grades in school
Short-term Emotional Symptoms
- Decreased stress tolerance
- Depressed mood
- Personality change
- Rapid mood changes
- Chronic headaches and/or dizziness
- Early dementia/chronic traumatic encephalopathy
- Growth problems (children)
- Loss of libido/sex drive
- Loss of menses/menstruation
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle spasticity
- Muscle weakness
- Weight gain
What is Post-Concussion Syndrome?
Post-Concussion Syndrome is a complicated disorder in which a variety of symptoms last for weeks or months after the injury has occurred (usually a blow to the head). Sometimes, symptoms do not appear immediately and come delayed which makes it very difficult to decide whether is it wise to return to sports after possible ‘concussion” suspicion.
Symptoms usually appear in the first 7-10 days and go away within three months, although they can sometimes last up to a year or for a lifetime. Physical therapy treatments are aimed towards easing symptoms and improve quality of life.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
This is when Dr. Shakya is able to put his physical therapy and manual therapy skills to use in his Arlington, VA office. Using stretches, strength and motion exercises, vision & vestibular exercises, soft tissue mobilizations, and electrical stimulation, he is able to ease many of the common ailments associated with concussions. Physical therapy treatment regimens typically include rest and recovery, restoring strength and endurance, stopping dizziness and improving balance, headache reduction, and finally returning to normal activities or sports.
For more information, Contact us at Arlington, VA center.