There has been a lot of discussion on the topic of concussion over the past few years. And there has been a lot more research that has prompted this discussion. The awareness around CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) has really brought this into the spotlight and now the AFL have mandated a 12 day recovery period following a concussion for players.
But what does it all mean? What is it important? And what should you be aware of?
A concussion occurs when axons (nerves) in the brain are thought to be stretched/sheared by movement when the person received the force to their head. This impairs the neural ability to fire and send the right messages from the brain. Different parts of the brain can be affected, and this is why people present with different symptoms. As the axons are not torn and there is no bleeding in the brain, nothing will show on an MRI or scan. Because it has to do with shearing, it does not always have to happen following a knock to the head - it could happend when force is trasmitted from teh body to the head (eg. a bump in football, a car accident)
Concussion is a functional disturbance, meaning it is diagnosed through signs and symptoms and won’t show on scans and imagery of the brain. Additionally, concussion is an evolving injury - in that symptoms are not always present and may develop over a matter of minutes, all the way through to a number of weeks from injury.
In short - concussion is a form of brain injury.
What are the symptoms?
Concussion is diagnosed through a ‘constellation’ of signs and symtoms. Activities that take a lot of concentration can make symptoms reappear or make them worse when a person is recovering. People only need to show one symptom and a head knock to be diagnosed with concussion. Symptoms can include:
- Difficulty remembering or paying attention
- Balance problems or dizziness
- Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
- Feeling irritable, more emotional or “down”
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bothered by light or noise
- Double or blurry vision
- Slowed reaction time
- Sleep problems
- Loss of consciousness
What should you do if you have a concussion - or suspect a concussion?
Get checked! Your Physio or GP should be able to perform a SCAT 5 - which is a concussion assessment tool developed and used in elite sporting environments to examine the potential for and recovery from a concussion. Generally speaking, those with a diagnosed concussion need to let the brain recover - which is where the AFL rules around concussion are now in force. From there, a slow return to activity (with no symptoms) needs to be achieved. Sometimes people can recovery relatively quickly - sometimes it takes longer (there are still players in the AFL who have ongoing symptoms that have forced retirement).
If you suspect a concussion, please call your GP or us on 95801985 to arrange a free screening check.