What is a concussion?
A concussion can be from a direct blow to the head, neck, or any part of the
body that is caused by falling on the head or a jolting of the head. When this happens, the brain can sustain a coup or countercoup injury (this is essentially the brain getting tossed around and hitting the front and/or back of the skull).
During this, the lower part of the brain will sustain a shearing force ( think of ringing out a wet towel and seeing the twisting of the towel). This is also the same area that we talked about last month in dealing with migraine issues. When the back/forth and twisting actions of the brain happen, this can cause the symptoms we typically think of when talking about a concussion: sensitivities to light/sound, brain fog, fatigue, etc. Some other symptoms that can arise but are not typically thought of are irritability, dizziness, balance issues, migraines, and emotional instability (more on this later this month).
A concussion is a word that can be thrown around, especially in sports, as
something that is not that big of a deal. I will say that there has been a bigger push within the past 5 years for concussion education. With that said, such awareness is still in its infancy. One of the biggest pushes for more concussion research and awareness is the fact that CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is actually physically being seen. We are only really aware of CTE now because the only way to truly see what a concussion looks like in the brain is to do an autopsy! CTE is damage to the brain where scarring or atrophy can physically be seen. When the scarring and/or atrophy occurs, it can be very hard or really physically impossible to get these areas working properly. Look at the picture below to see an example of a brain that is normal and with CTE.
What can be very noticeable is that some areas are smaller or aren’t there at all. We still don’t know exactly why there is brain mass loss, but we do know that it is from repetitive head trauma that is not properly healed and is therefore not allowing the brain time to heal itself. This is also a good example of how a concussion, let alone multiple ones, can have many many side effects and symptoms.
Many areas of the brain can be affected; it is not limited to physical symptoms like light/sound sensitivity, but also non-physical issues like irritability, mood changes, decreases in concentration, and gut issues. Autophagy is a term that we use to describe how well the brain is able to clear out all the damage to a particular area (s). Again, if we are getting multiple concussions, we cannot have proper autophagy, and healing just cannot occur (we will talk more about this later this month).
Yes, when we think of concussions it is mainly in a sports setting, but a
concussion does not have favorites. We can see them in car accidents, falls, or even in repetitive traumas that don’t necessarily cause any symptoms at the time. The latter example is very important as well because it involves trauma to the brain, but it may not be a big hit to the head. It is also important to note that our military personal can be very susceptible to concussions, especially when talking about blast injuries!
- In sports, this can be seen when offensive/defensive line players hit
each other repetitively but not to the point where we would
consider it a concussion.
- In everyday life, this can happen when we fall or hit our head in a
the way that may not physically hurt us, but if we do it enough, it can
start to cause damage over time to the brain.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be going over some of the key concepts that we just discussed in more detail. At the end of this segment, we will put it all together and see how we use different brain-based techniques to help athletes, weekend warriors, military personnel, or anyone that may have just tripped or fallen one too many times.
Here is Week 2’s Blog
Here is the Last Blog