Frequently Asked Questions
Table of Contents
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury caused by a force transmitted to the head from direct or indirect contact with the head, face, neck, or body. This can cause either a collision between the brain and skull or a strain on the neural tissue and vasculature (1,2,3).
When there is trauma to the brain in this way, a wave of cellular and molecular changes occur. In our brain we have axons that are very thin, delicate strands connecting different thought processes and chemicals. When you take a blow to the head these axons are damaged and prevent vital processes from working correctly (1,2,3).
Approximately 80-90% of concussions resolve in 7 to 10 days, although concussion-like symptoms can last months or even years. If this is surprising or confusing, check out our section on Post Concussion Syndrome (7).
The CDC estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities annually (9).
A concussion does not require a direct blow to the head, just the jolting of the head (ex: whiplash) (8).
An individual does not have to lose consciousness in order to have a concussion. In fact, 81-92% of concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness (1,4,5,6).
What are common symptoms?
Symptoms of a concussion vary from person to person. Concussion is not a one-size-fits-all injury, and no two concussions are alike, even in the same person.
Common symptoms include:
Sensitivity to Light
Sensitivity to Noise
Some of the symptoms of a concussion can appear immediately after the injury, while others may not show up for several days or later (8).
Parents, coaches, and teammates should inquire about these symptoms if a concussion is suspected. If a player experiences any of these symptoms after a blow to the head or body, the player should be removed immediately from play and not resume physical activity until cleared by a doctor.
Why is removal from play important?
The whole focus of our New Tough Pact revolves around this question.
We’ve learned from both published studies and personal experience that neglecting to report possible concussions happens a lot in sports. The Center for Disease Control performed a study that indicated 69% of student athletes do not report possible concussion symptoms (10). We’re talking over two-thirds of athletes here. That’s too many. As former and current athletes ourselves, we believe this stems from a lack of understanding about the impact playing with concussion symptoms can have on your health.
So, why is it so critical to create a safer sports culture? Why is it so important to report concussion symptoms immediately?
Here are the basics:
Physical activity immediately after concussion negatively affects your brain in a few ways:
Neuroplasticity decreasesYou might be wondering, what is neuroplasticity? Great question. It’s your brain’s ability to recover itself after it gets banged around. It allows neurons to compensate for injury and reorganize pathways in the brain so it can still function properly.
Cognitive performance decreases
Cognition includes memory and the ability to pay attention, organize, learn and plan. When cognition is reduced, you might not be able to think as clearly as you normally would.
Neuroinflammation increases (11,12)
In a recent study, athletes who continued to play with a concussion required nearly twice as long to recover than those who were immediately removed from play (13). This statistic speaks for itself. Nobody wants to be out of the game longer than they have to be, so why risk it?
The brain is vulnerable to subsequent injury immediately following a head injury. After a concussion, changes happen in your brain that limit blood flow and throw off your body’s energy-supply balance. One of the possible causes for this is a reduction of glucose availability after a concussion (14).
- Continuing to play with a concussion puts you at risk for Second Impact Syndrome (SIS).
What is Second Impact Syndrome?
Second Impact Syndrome is a potentially catastrophic injury that occurs when an individual who has a concussion sustains a second head injury before symptoms related to the first have resolved. Remember how we mentioned that concussion can increase neuroinflammation in the brain? Well, if someone sustains a second head injury during this vulnerable period, the brain has the potential to swell so much that there isn’t enough space in the skull, which can destroy brain tissue and in some cases lead to death (17).
SIS is very rare, with less than twenty confirmed cases presented in published medical literature (17). Even so, it should drive home the point that concussions are to be taken seriously. There is still more to learn about Second Impact Syndrome, but what’s clear is that things can go wrong when concussion isn’t managed properly.
That’s why we are all about the education, so you can get ahead of the game and continue competing in sports the right way. Help us create a safer sports culture by making the commitment to New Tough culture here!
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DISCLAIMER: Headway is not a medical provider and does not provide medical advice. Any medical information included on this website is provided for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.