There is constant news coming out about traumatic brain injury, especially focusing on the diagnosis and management of the injuries to minimalize or prevent the more severe secondary injuries that are often a result of brain trauma. But, none of these updates has made a dent in the statistics that over 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur every year and there is still no acute treatment for the condition.
Traumatic brain injury, or a concussion as it is commonly called is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. There is much debate over how hard of a hit is required to create brain trauma, and how serious the “mild” cases are. Numerous athletes and normal citizens have suffered “mild” TBI with no severe or long-lasting symptoms, but others develop severe issues from a relatively light hit to the head. This is further complicated by the exponentially increasing risk associated with repetitive injuries over shorter periods of time.
The issue is complex, and we are finding out new information every day about how the brain acts in the face of trauma. But, the most important facts anyone can know about the injury are the signs and symptoms that help identify brain trauma. Protecting injured brains from repeated injury is the most essential step to preventing serious brain damage or even death, so quick identification and removal from dangerous situations such as contact sports is imperative.
The most commonly associated sign of traumatic brain injury is loss of consciousness or “blacking out” but this only occurs in roughly 10 percent of all TBI cases. Instead, it is better to look for smaller but significant symptoms in the days following the injury, such as those listed by the Mayo Clinic:
- Headache or feeling of pressure in the head
- Confusion or “foggy” thinking
- Memory issues, especially in the time close to the injury
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
Symptoms aren’t always immediate and can come on over the course of the week after the initial injury. It is important to keep an eye out for any signs of subtle changes that could be a sign of TBI, like:
- Concentration and memory issues
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep problems
If any of these symptoms arise in the wake of an injury or hard hit, it is imperative that the injured person be taken to a doctor to ensure there aren’t further complications or injuries. The usual recommended treatment is complete rest of the body and mind, but a health care professional will be able to ensure there is no swelling or bleeding in the brain, which are signs of much more serious damage.