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.
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?