Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that can occur from falls, accidents, impacts, or other types of activities that cause the brain to move rapidly back-and-forth within the skull. Though on the outside, the injury may not appear to be significant, the sudden and rapid movement of the brain can damage cells and chemical processes, as well as impact brain functioning. The effects of concussions can be mild or more severe, causing brief or more long-term effects.
When one suffers a concussion, the most common symptoms are usually headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea and/or vomiting, mental “fogginess,” fatigue, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, there may be a loss of consciousness. It is important to seek medical attention following a concussion, regardless of how severe it seems. While most of these symptoms resolve within a week, in approximately 20% of cases, post-concussion syndrome may develop. In these cases, symptoms include more long-term effects, such as difficulty concentrating, poor memory, personality or mood changes, sleep disturbances, and sensory sensitivities. These symptoms may last up to 6 weeks.
Most concussions are sports-related, and it is estimated that 300,000 to 1 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the U.S. Those who play contact sports reportedly have a 19% chance of suffering a concussion in any given year. Football tends to lead to the most concussions in male athletes, while soccer is reportedly the leading cause of concussions among female athletes. While some concussions may be relatively mild, repeat concussions and brain injuries can lead to serious consequences. As noted, it is important to seek medical attention following a concussion. If there are obvious changes in cognitive functioning and/or personality, consultation with a neurologist or neuropsychologist is warranted.