Concussion safety is an issue in football from the National Football League to youth organization Pop Warner. In just five years, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws intended to ensure proper treatment of concussions in youth athletes. Here is background information on the medical side of concussions.
Question: What is a concussion?
Answer: A mild traumatic brain injury that disrupts the function of the brain.
Q: How do concussions occur?
A: From a blow to the head or an impact elsewhere on the upper body that transmits to the head, causing the soft brain to slam into the inside of the skull. The brain also can twist and stretch from what is called rotational force, which is believed to cause more severe brain injury than straight-on linear force.
Q: What are the immediate effects?
A: Concussions vary drastically. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating and confusion. Estimates show that less than 10 percent of concussions include loss of consciousness. Symptoms have been known to surface days later.
Q: What are the long-lasting effects?
A: Research continues into concussions' long-term effects. Full recovery from a single, isolated concussion can be expected with proper recognition and management, although suffering one concussion seems to increase the likelihood of another. Repeated concussions can cause permanent and progressive brain damage.
Q: How long does it take for concussions to heal?
A: Hours, days, weeks, months — it varies. Symptoms usually will resolve in seven to 10 days. Research suggests younger athletes take longer to recover from concussions than adults.
Q: How are concussions diagnosed?
A: Concussions are diagnosed using signs and symptoms. Baseline testing, in which cognitive function is measured at the start of a season and then retested after a concussion, is an objective measure in assessing brain injury. But it is not a diagnostic tool. CT scans and MRIs contribute little to evaluating concussions.
Q: How are concussions treated?
A: Mental rest is extremely important. This may require missing school or reducing classwork. Activities such as watching TV, playing video games, using a computer and texting may be discouraged. Resting the body also is important, since physical activity can exacerbate symptoms and prolong recovery. Some concussions require observation at a hospital.