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Concussions

20 August, 2019


Concussions

Approximate reading time: 3-5 minutes

Concussions are being talked about more frequently. AFL superstars are sidelined, or even quitting the game.

We now understand more about concussions - and that many were missed in the past. There's emerging research linking concussions to serious health concerns later in life.

You cannot rule out a concussion because you have had a brain scan.

In fact, MRIs, CTs and x-rays cannot diagnose a concussion. They are used to check that the brain, skull and spine aren’t fractured or bleeding.

A concussion is a short term disturbance of brain function. Brain function. There’s not any structural damage which is why it can’t be seen on traditional brain scans.

What does that mean? Think of your nerves, brain, bones and other areas of the body as the hardware of a computer. The functions that they perform - like thinking, moving or speaking - are the software of our body’s computer system.

MRIs, CTs and x-rays look at the hardware. Concussions are a software glitch.

The last decade has produced growing evidence of the longer term impacts on concussions, even after the initial symptoms have disappeared. This has led to an increased awareness within the healthcare communities for early concussion diagnosis and treatments.


Symptoms of a concussion

The symptoms of concussions are varied and great. Everyone with a concussion has a slightly different experience.

Physical Changes

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Motion sickness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sensitive to noise & light
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Balance problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Feeling fuzzy
  • Gut changes

Mood & Behavioural Changes

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulties paying attention
  • Confusion
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Sadness
  • Feeling foggy, groggy, sluggish
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Memory difficulties
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Just not feeling right

Sleep and Energy Changes

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble staying asleep


One common misconception about concussions is that you lose consciousness. Many times patients tell me that they haven’t been knocked unconscious and therefore haven’t had a concussion. This is not the case.

The majority of the time, a concussion occurs without any loss of consciousness.


Causes of a concussion

Maybe you think concussions only occur in sports.

Yes they do occur in sports, but there are also many other causes!

Concussions can occur from:

  • Sports
  • Car accidents
  • Violence
  • Trips & falls around the home or workplace

Sports-related concussions are the most common however it’s not always from rough contact sports. Sports like cricket, gymnastics and netball have their fair share of concussions as well.

Walking into a spotless glass door can even cause a concussion. True story.

It doesn’t have to be a dramatic fall, hit or accident. If you hit your head or have a sudden movement of the body and neck (whiplash), it can cause a concussion. This is especially true if you've had a few knocks in the past. 


Long term effects of concussions

Most recover quickly after a concussion and are symptom free within 7-10 days.

For others, a concussion can have ongoing repercussions. Up to 15% have medium to long term symptoms after a concussion - this is termed Post Concussion Syndrome.


Concussion assessment

If it's a decent enough knock, you’ll likely get a scan done. But as we know, this won’t tell us if you have a concussion. It’ll let us know that everything is structurally in place.

After anything serious is ruled out we can start the concussion assessment. That’s usually a number of simple tests, like:

  • Cognitive function such as memory, orientation and concentration
  • Symptoms review like headaches, dizziness and brain fog
  • Balance & coordination testing
  • Neck and head examination

At Body and Brain Centre, we also offer additional assessments, including:

Not everyone needs fancy testing. Most people will recover from a concussion in about a week.


Concussion treatments

Our brains are complicated and so too are their injuries. Depending on the number of concussions you’ve had, how vulnerable your brain is to injury and the severity of the injury, you may not require any treatment. Sometimes, treatment is needed to reduce headaches, dizziness, sleep disturbances or any of the above symptoms.

Depending on the results of your symptoms and examination, you may be a candidate for psychology, neurofeedback or neuro-rehabilitation among other therapies.

For example, if you have headaches and neck stiffness, chiropractic may offer relief. This generally does not involve any manual adjustments but rather very gentle joint mobilisations and massage techniques to reduce the pain. And like anything, this isn’t for everyone. That’s why we offer different treatment options.

You may also require home exercises such as specific eye movements (vestibular rehabilitation), advice regarding time off school or work and an individualised supplements program to reduce your symptoms and promote healing.


Did you know we offer online telehealth consultations as well as face to face appointments?


Summary:

  • Concussions are short term changes to brain function without any structural damage
  • Concussions can cause a variety of symptoms including physical, mood, behavioural and sleep
  • Most concussions resolve in 7-10 days but the brain may still be healing
  • Not everyone needs fancy testing
  • There's no one best treatment - an individual approach is necessary

About the Author:

Cassie experienced a concussion after skiing, or rather attempting to ski, in Queenstown. This left her unable to work for a period of time and took many years to “feel normal” again. This experience drove Cassie to further understand concussions and solutions for the debilitating symptoms. She's a Chiropractor who has further training in neuro-rehabilitation, function brain scans and neurofeedback.


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