TL;DR Science: Concussions

By Thomas P.
August 05, 2022 · 2 minute read

Medicine

Cognitive Science

Biology

For educational purposes only. Not medical advice.

Concussions are among the most common of all injuries sustained to the head (occuring in 3.5 among every 1000 people), and the least severe. They are typically sustained by children/adolescents (especially by those in more dangerous sports such football or boxing), though are also common among adults and elders. Scientifically, they are called Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBIs); however, they are far from being only mildly serious given the brain is the command center of the body. It’s comparable to a group of terrorists burning down only a couple blocks in Washington D.C. rather than the whole of the nation’s capital. 

Typical cause of a concussion

The main theater where a concussion is seen is in the sports arena; however, they are not exclusively seen therein. For example, children can receive a concussion during normal roughplay. In addition, concussions can also occur in car and bicycle accidents where the head is affected. 

The concussion mechanism 

Our brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid which acts as a cushion to protect the brain from force with light acceleration that may affect the head. However, when a certain force contains enough acceleration, the cerebrospinal fluid is not able to absorb all of the force, which causes the brain to rapidly move inside of the cranium (skull); this mechanism is the initial cause of the mTBI. The brain is subsequently starved of its cerebral blood flow and produces neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, in excess; this effect later produces symptoms stated below. 

It is typically recommended by a medical provider that observation be conducted should the mTBI be of more serious concern. However, there are no treatments for mTBIs, save for perhaps sleep. 

Upon receiving a concussion recipient is at increased risk for receiving a second, more serious TBI (traumatic brain injury) for 10 days. This is why it is always imperative that a concussion recipient be removed from commission immediately, to prevent further damage to their brain. 

The effect of mTBIs can sometimes persist for many years after, where the brain’s physiology may be distinctly different as a result of the mTBI. 

Symptoms

Various symptoms of mTBIs include: 

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Trouble thinking lucidly 
  • Vision problems
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep changes

 The following symptoms typically are indicative a more serious TBI: 

  • Pupils of different sizes
  • Seizures
  • Worsening headache or vomiting
  • Amnesia or blackout (even just for a few seconds) following the incident

Symptoms can last for a varying amount of time, depending on the severity of the mTBI. Given mTBI symptoms can include trouble with thinking and focusing, they can change someone’s quality of life. 

Prevention of concussions

Concussions can be prevented by helmets in sports, seatbelts and airbags in cars, and removal of fall risks in houses. Many rules in sports (e.g. preventing certain moves/techniques [such as “head-down” tackling in football] or requiring use of helmets) and current laws requiring the use of seat belts and child seats have been created to prevent concussions or other injuries. Concussion-identification education in coaches can also prevent concussions from going unnoticed, even when they are mild in severity, and draw awareness to the common injury. 

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About The Author

Thomas is a student at Eastside High School.

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