A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. Medically, it is defined as a clinical syndrome characterized by immediate and transient alteration in brain function, including alteration of level of consciousness, that results from mechanical force or trauma.
Concussions can be caused by direct trauma to the head, such as from falling, getting hit or being in an accident. They can also occur as a result of rapid movement of the head, such as in whiplash injuries or blast injuries. Many people assume that concussions involve passing out or a loss of consciousness, but this is not true. In many cases, people with a concussion never lose consciousness. In several cases, external signs of head trauma, such as bleeding, may also be absent.
A concussion can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination. People with concussions often report a brief period of amnesia or forgetfulness, where they cannot remember what happened immediately before or after the injury.
Even mild concussions should not be taken lightly. Neurosurgeons and other brain injury experts emphasize that although some concussions are less serious than others, there is no such thing as a minor concussion. In most cases, a single concussion should not cause permanent damage. A second concussion soon after the first one does not have to be very strong for its effects to be permanently disabling.
Concussion symptoms can affect people in a variety of ways, including vision, balance and even mood. Historically, the standard treatment for concussion was to get plenty of rest. However, newer approaches involve therapy to target specific symptoms. Clinics exist that help determine the most affected system and appropriate therapy for a given symptomatology. In addition, a thorough medical examination may be needed before returning to sports or activities with the potential for contact or further head injury.