H E A D     I N J U R Y

Concussion and Brain Injury

by C. M. Shifflett
(Excerpted from Surviving Martial Arts)

Players have a better grasp of the contents of a can of soda than they do of the effects of their brain rattling against their skull. — Leigh Steinberg, agent for an injured NFL quarterback

Concussion, from M.E. English concussioun, a bruise, contusion, from L. concussus, past participle of concutere, to strike together.

A concussion is commonly defined as “a violent jarring or shock,” a shock wave impact that leaves no bruise. When it happens to the brain, especially with brief or prolonged loss of consciousness or bodily function, a patient is said to be concussed. The bruise or bleeding and swelling part of such an injury (hematoma) is a contusion.

Properly speaking, you don’t arrive at the emergency room with a concussion. That was the blow that happened in the past. As a result of the earlier concussion, however, you may arrive with a contusion — bruising of brain tissue sufficient to impair physical functioning and cause mental/emotional problems.

The most common type is closed head trauma where there is no obvious external injury or actual skull fracture. You are less likely to die of closed head trauma than open head trauma with visible bones and brains — but this does not mean that closed head trauma is trivial.

A concussion is much like dropping a hammer onto the motherboard of your computer. It will almost certainly cause some amount of damage.

Even a very minor head trauma may cause emotional upheavals and mood swings for a week or two. These may range from waves of sadness or anger to a lowered tolerance for frustration. As we shall see, there may be many more severe and enduring symptoms. Head injuries that we consider to be trivial may cause non-trivial symptoms for years onward. Nevertheless, the problem of brain injury is largely ignored or misunderstood.

There is a long-standing belief that if you did not lose consciousness, no real damage was done. Not so. Loss of consciousness suggests shock or injury to the brain stem which is a whole different issue. It is perfectly possible to suffer severe injury to other parts of the brain yet remain fully conscious.

Always treat a blow to the head gently and properly.

But what is proper treatment?

Copyright(c) 2006 Round Earth Publishing. All rights reserved.
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