September 21st is National Concussion Awareness Day, which is meant to educate and bring attention to this common but potentially devastating injury.
What is a Concussion?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a concussion as a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) where the brain is bounced around or twists in the skull. That kind of abnormal brain movement is typically caused by a bump or jolt to the head, or some other movement that causes the head and brain to move back and forth rapidly. As a result, brain cells can sometimes be stretched or damaged and harmful chemical changes in the brain can occur.
How Common Are Concussions?
The majority of TBIs diagnosed each year are concussions. TBIs are one of the largest causes of death and disability in the United States, and the CDC reports that concussions and other TBIs contribute to roughly 30% of all injury deaths. In 2013 alone, the CDC reports that there were 2.8 million TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S.
What Activities Cause the Most Concussions?
Although concussions in sports have gained attention in recent years, falls remain the leading cause of TBIs and concussions. According to the CDC, falls accounted for 47% of all TBI-related ER visits and hospitalizations in the U.S. in 2013. Being struck by or against an object was a distant second, accounting for 15%, while motor vehicle crashes accounted for 14% of TBI-related ER visits and hospitalizations. When it comes to sports and recreation activities, UPMC Sports Medicine estimates that 5 of 10 sports-related concussions go reported, while 2 in 10 high school athletes who play contact sports (including lacrosse and soccer) will suffer a concussion each year. While UPMC estimates that around 300,000 football-related concussions occur each year, girls’ soccer and basketball see the second and third most concussions of all high school sports, respectively.
What are the Symptoms of a Concussion?
Since concussions involve some amount of damage to the brain, a wide variety of symptoms can happen. These symptoms don’t always show up right after the incident, which often makes it difficult to recognize that there is a bigger problem going on. This chart, taken from the CDC, breaks out the common symptoms of concussion into four categories:
In addition, the CDC notes that there are several concussion danger signs. If a person experiences these, the local ER or a health care professional should be contacted immediately:
- Headache that gets worse or does not go away;
- Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination;
- Repeated vomiting or nausea;
- Slurred Speech.
If any of the following symptoms are seen, the CDC recommends that the person should be taken to an ER right away:
- Looks very drowsy or cannot wake up;
- Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other;
- Have convulsions or seizures;
- Cannot recognize people or places;
- Are getting more and more confused, restless, or agitated;
- Have unusual behavior; or
- Lose consciousness.
What Should I Do if a Concussion Occurs?
Don’t ignore the problem; get help right away. If you or someone you know may have suffered a concussion, it is very important to seek medical care from a health care professional right away. Getting professional medical care soon after a concussion can sometimes improve recovery. If you suffered a concussion as a result of an accident or while working, contact us to learn more about how we can help you.