Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is the most common type of acquired brain injury, resulting from direct contact to the head. It is typically minor in nature and, in children, often occurs as a sport injury. When the brain sustains direct impact, the brain may come into contact with the skull and surrounding facial bones, resulting in swelling, bruising, and, in some cases, bleeding in the brain.
A concussion is characterised by symptoms of dizziness, headaches, vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, and sometimes a period of unconsciousness under 30 minutes. Concussions may also cause amnesia, confusion and temporary problems with balance and attention.
In mild cases, an individual who is given plenty of rest can recover from a concussion within two weeks. Doctors may order scans and prescribe painkillers. However, as with all brain injuries, concussions may appear minor in nature but in fact have caused profound damage. Hence it is advisable to visit a doctor or the hospital if a concussion is suspected, especially if severe symptoms are experienced.
Cognitive issues associated with concussions
Although most symptoms associated with a concussion disappear relatively quickly, there is evidence to show that even sustaining one concussion may be related to lasting brain damage, particularly affecting attention, processing speed, and memory. These deficits can be observed through brain scans where the injured brain areas may be seen.
Additionally, an estimated 15% of individuals develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS), where the symptoms of a concussion can affect them for up to three months after the initial concussive episode. In this case the usually temporary cognitive impairments experienced after a concussion may have a much more profound impact on their daily functioning.
Research has found that individuals who were experiencing emotional distress prior to the concussion may be more susceptible to PPCS, as they may have reduced cognitive function and focus too much on the physical pain that concussions cause.