Concussions can occur as a result of two events: an impact to the head, or a rapid change in movement. If you are in a vehicle moving forward and another vehicle T-bones you, the sudden movement of your brain changing from forward motion to sideways motion could cause a concussion.
You do not need to hit your head to suffer from a concussion. It is the sudden stop in direction or a hit to the head that could lead to a concussion. In addition, a hit to the head does not have to be hard. This is especially true if this is not your first concussion.
Your Brain Changes When You Suffer a Concussion
When a person suffers from a hard hit to the head, or when their brain suddenly stops its forward movement and changes direction, the damage from this rapid movement causes the brain tissue to change shape. That, in turn, stretches the brain cells, causing metabolic and chemical changes in the brain cells. If you suffer from these changes, communication and daily functioning can become difficult. According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the CDC estimates that people suffer from 3.8 million concussions every year.
A concussion, even a mild concussion, is a traumatic brain injury. Every concussion has its unique properties and can affect each individual differently. Even when people suffer from the same symptoms, those symptoms can affect each person differently as well.
If you are in a vehicle accident, you should always let emergency responders check you out. Many injuries may not show up for hours or even days. Symptoms of concussions could also take hours or days to show up.
If you have a concussion, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- You have a headache that does not go away.
- You experience relentless neck pain.
- Your thinking and movements seem to be in slow motion.
- You have trouble articulating your thoughts out loud.
- You have a hard time concentrating or remembering things.
- You experience difficulty in making decisions.
- You get confused easily.
- You get lost.
- You undergo unexplained mood changes.
- You feel light-headed or dizzy, or lose balance.
- You experience a change in your sleep patterns—either by sleeping more than you usually would, or you are having trouble getting to sleep.
- You feel tired and/or fatigued all the time.
- You are more sensitive to light than normal.
- You are more sensitive to sounds than normal.
- You are becoming easily distracted.
- You feel nauseated.
- Your ears will not stop ringing.
- Your vision is blurry.
- Your eyes seem to tire quickly.
- You lost your sense of taste and/or smell.
Children may show additional symptoms of having a concussion. They may not know how to tell you what they are feeling or when something is wrong. If you notice that your child has any of the above-listed symptoms or any of the following symptoms, even after emergency responders checked your child out after an accident, contact your pediatrician immediately or take your child to the emergency room.
Signs to look out for in your child include:
- Your child seems to be tired all of the time.
- Your child is listless.
- Your child will not eat or nurse.
- You cannot console your child.
- Your child’s skills revert, such as a toilet-trained child is no longer toilet trained.
- Your child’s behavior and/or school performance changes.
- Your child does not play as he or she usually would.
- Your child loses interest in favorite activities and toys.
- Your child loses balance easily, or his or her walking is unsteady.
What Actions You Should Take After a Concussion
After you suffer a concussion, your doctor will give you instructions. As part of the after-concussion instructions, you may be instructed to rest, pay attention to additional symptoms, and avoid partaking in certain activities. You should also avoid activities that are strenuous on your eyes, such as looking at anything with a screen (including the television), avoiding loud noises, and avoiding crowds.
You might have grown up hearing certain myths about concussions. Even if you have not suffered from a concussion, you should know what they are.
Hitting Your Head
You do not have to hit your head to suffer from a concussion. Sudden movement, such as a sudden change in direction, can also cause a concussion. Another common myth is that you must have been knocked out to suffer from a concussion. Though a concussion may cause you to blackout, you can suffer from a concussion even if you were not knocked out.
Bruised Brain and Symptoms
Many people think a concussion is just a bruise on your brain. While bruised brains are dangerous, a concussion is more than a bruised brain, since a concussion actually affects how the brain works. A concussion inhibits the way your brain works. It could inhibit reasoning, concentration, and more.
Many people also believe that the symptoms show immediately, as soon as the accident occurs. That is not always the case. If you suffered a concussion, you might not notice any symptoms for a few hours or even days after an accident.
Clean Scans and Disappearing Symptoms
Because a concussion affects the functionality of the brain, a doctor cannot see the damage on a CT scan, an MRI, or an X-ray. However, performing these tests would help the doctor see if the concussion caused any bleeding in the brain.
Additionally, if your symptoms fade, be sure to follow doctors’ orders regarding after-care of a concussion. Just because the symptoms disappear, it does not mean that you are fully recovered after suffering from a concussion.