Concussions have become a well-known topic of discussion these days. Brought on by the NFL controversy and the recent movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith, everyone is talking about what can and should be done to prevent and treat brain injuries. The discussion usually revolves around football, but concussions can be a problem for anyone with a brain. In other words, it’s a problem for just about everyone. Most people know how concussions occur and post-concussions symptoms. Despite the ongoing discussion on concussions, not very many people know exactly what occurs to the brain during and post-concussion.
What Is A Concussion?
Have you ever seen one of those bouncy balls with liquid on the inside along with an object? Imagine if the rubber outside of the ball was your skull, the liquid was the fluid inside the skull – called cerebrospinal fluid – and the toy inside was your brain. That object, or your brain, is perfectly balanced in the middle, surrounded by fluid that protects it – similar to the bouncy ball. When you bounce the ball, you’re probably going to notice that object bouncing along too – hitting the rubber sides of the ball. This is what happens to your brain when your head hits something hard enough. Just like the fluid inside the ball isn’t enough to keep the object from banging about, so too the cerebrospinal fluid is not enough to keep the brain in one place.
Simply put, when your head hits something hard enough, your brain bumps into your skull on impact. However, not only does the brain hit one side of the skull, but it also hits the other side when it’s jarred back into place – similar to what happens to your body during whip lash.
However, just as you’ve noticed the object in the ball doesn’t remain upright, but twists and rotates as well; your brain does that as well depending on the severity of the impact. It’s definitely not a pretty picture to envision, and what happens post-concussion is possibly worse.
What Happens Post-Concussion?
After impact, your brain develops bruises in the areas that hit the skull – most often the first impact and the second one on the opposite side of the brain. These bruises are called the coup and the contrecoup. When the brain twists and rotates as well, nerve cells are put under enough strain that they partially or fully lose the ability to send and receive messages from the rest of the body. A full irreversible brain injury means that those nerve cells permanently lose their functionality and ability to communicate.
Post-concussion, the nervous function of the brain is immediately paralyzed. This means that for a brief moment, you can’t sense anything; and may even be knocked unconscious. Whether or not the concussion is accompanied by loss of consciousness, they may be confused. They may even experience memory loss for up to 15 minutes.
What Do You Do?
If you think you’ve suffered a concussion it’s important to seek medical help right away. Although strict rest, called cocooning, is now advised against, you should never return to sports or your normal way of life until cleared by a doctor or physical therapist. Physical therapy, in particular, is one of the most effective means of treatment for a concussion and the prevention of concussions.