20 August, 2019
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.
- Motion sickness
- 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
- Difficulties paying attention
- Emotional outbursts
- Feeling foggy, groggy, sluggish
- Feeling slowed down
- Memory difficulties
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Just not feeling right
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:
- Car accidents
- 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.
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:
- Computerised balance assessment
- Vestibular (inner ear) testing
- Oculomotor (eye movement) assessment
- QEEG functional brain scan - optional
Not everyone needs fancy testing. Most people will recover from a concussion in about a week.
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.
- 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
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Brain Health Coach & Biofeedback Practitioner
Dr Cassie is a Chiropractor and Brain Health Coach. Having a special interest in treating nerves and brain-based conditions like nerve pain, chronic pain, dizziness, whiplash, migraines and fibromyalgia. She's one of a handful of practitioners to be trained in Neuro-Rehabilitation, Neurofeedback, QEEG Functional Brain Scans and Brain Health Coaching.
She’s had concussions and atypical migraines as well as a vestibular disorder called Labyrinthitis. During this time, she would hold on to tables to avoid falling over. She understands the journey coming from a family of chronic pain and migraine sufferers.
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- Chaudhury S, Pande V, Saini R, Rathee SP (2005). Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Head Injury. Indian Journal of Neurotrauma, Vol 2, No. 1, pp. 13-21
- Duff J (2004). The usefulness of quantitative EEG (QEEG) and neurotherapy in the assessment and treatment of post-concussion syndrome. Clint EEG Neurosci, 2004 Oct, 35 (4), pp. 198 - 209
- Finch C, Clapperton AJ, McCrory P (2013). Increasing Incidence of Hospitalisation for Sport-Related Concussion in Victoria, Australia. Medical Journal of Australia. 198 (8)
- Harrison L. “Concussion Recovery May be Slower than Current Estimates.” Medscape. Accessed www.medscape.com/viewarticle/846122, accessed on 09/06/2015
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