What is Happening in Your Brain Following a Concussion?


Concussion Illustration

Source: Patrick J. Lynch

There are few in this country that aren’t aware of the vague concept of concussions. Whether they think of concussions as “getting knocked silly” or as a brain injury that has serious health risks, every at least knows the word. The problem is, few actually understand what happens in the brain during and after a concussion, so it can be hard to understand how a relatively common head injury could be linked to diseases and conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

As part of their week-long coverage of concussions within mixed martial arts fighting, The Star-Ledger explained what happens when your brain gets injured:

  • A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury typically caused by a hard hit to the head or body. A fall is another common way to get a concussion, as the impact can jar the brain inside the skull. There are often no physical signs of injury, except occasional bruising, so concussions are commonly called an ‘invisible injury’.
  • A brain injury can cause bruising of the brain, tearing of blood vessels, and nerve damage. Depending on the severity of the injury, bleeding within the skull or swelling of the brain can cause secondary and significant brain damage without immediate medical intervention.
  • The most common signs of concussions include headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue. Loss of consciousness is also a clear sign of brain injury, but it only actually occurs in roughly 10 percent of all concussions. Cognitive and emotional symptoms can also appear, including behavioral or mood changes, confusion, and trouble with memory, concentration, or thinking.
  • Repeated concussions greatly increase the risk of each injury and can significantly exacerbate the effects. Repeated concussions also increase the risk of permanent neurological damage, leading to consistent memory problems, difficulty concentrating and organizing thoughts, and significant personality changes. The cumulative affects are also believed to contribute to other brain disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
  • The brain has to have time to recover following a brain injury. Recovery can take from a few days to months depending on the severity of the injury and the patient’s brain biochemistry.

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